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.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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246 thoughts on “The Vegetarian Myth”

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  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!

  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.

    1. No doubt there are problems with factory farming – on an ethical, environmental and public health level. Both need sweeping reform, in my opinion.

    2. free range pastures do far less damage to the soil than burrow/row farming of crops. Read the book. Remember the dust bowl?

      1. 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

      2. 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.

        1. yeah – humans have already messed up so many ecosystems… certain resources are more or less available now than in the past. Humans move in, destroy natural ecosystem, build our towns, towns go to waste (when farms no longer produce food, the price of a mineral ends mining, or some other issue makes it difficult for ANYTHING to live)…. We might as well repurpose those spaces! Micro Greens!!!

    3. ” 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.

  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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

    2. 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…

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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?)

  4. 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

  5. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. “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.

    2. 🙁 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. 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!

        4. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

      3. “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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

        3. ‘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’ 😀

        4. 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.

        5. “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.

        6. ‘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.


        7. 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.

        8. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  10. This is very high up on my queue…looks excellent. I have a few vegan friends so I expect many interesting conversations ahead! 🙂

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

    1. 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.

  14. 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?

    1. 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.

  15. Oh god seems I got carried away, sorry for the massive comment.

    1. Not at all, SS – I think what you wrote was eloquent and to the point. Well said.

  16. 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!

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

    1. A nature reserve for hunter/gatherer man. At the current rate of ecosystem destruction I can almost see it coming to that.

  19. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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?

  20. 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.

    1. “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”?

      1. Seriously?

        100 pounds of beef: one dead organism.

        100 pounds of wheat: thousands of dead organisms.

        1. 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?

        2. 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.

  21. Beautiful. Robb Wolf bowed out on basically the same reasons years ago. It is frightening what people are convinced of.

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        1. 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)

        2. 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.

    1. 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

  24. 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.

  25. 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

    1. 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

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  27. 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.

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.

        1. 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?

        2. 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.

        3. 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.

  28. Guess what’s under the christmas tree this year 😉 Hope I can get some of my vegatarian relatives primal!

  29. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. Aw… cmon… it’s not that bad… it’s mostly fairly decent rhetoric.

    3. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. 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”

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

    1. ‘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.

  34. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. Mark, your review is spot on and, as is usually the case, it is wonderfully written. I myself have been trying to get that sad, important book into as many people’s hands as I can.

    A number of the posters here — some of whom have clearly not read the book and yet have commented based upon, I suppose, their interpolations of Mark’s comments of it — are mistaken on a number of points. For example, the book is not alarmist “in order to make money” as someone suggested. It is alarmist because it is truthful. I don’t imagine the author will make a ton of money on it as it is too contrary to CW. Second, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and want to stay that way, despite so much logic, science, good sense, and even morality, pointing in another direction, then why on Earth are you on this site in the first place? A sine qua non of any “Primal” or “paleo” approach is that humans are meat eaters. Period. Without that, you ain’t gettin’ it. It’s also not about standard confinement animal feedlot operations (CAFO) Please get that, as it is implicit in every sentence written about animal vs. plant food!! Fer chrissakes, I cannot believe the number of people that ignore this important point. Anyway, an omnivorous/carnivorous diet is factually what we humans are biologically adapted to eat. Thinking otherwise is delusional. How exactly our omnivorism is proportioned is what may be debatable, but not the factual reality of it.

    Can we all go Primal instead of Agricultural or vegetarian if we wanted to? No. There are too many of us for any kind of truly sustainable diet/lifestyle. One of the sad messages of the book is that the planet cannot sustain 6 billion people. Period. She is not making this up. Things are going to get much, much worse before they get better (that’s my sentence, not hers). Many of you want that not to be true, I am sure, so you say that hers is an alarmist view, or that we’ll ‘figure something out’ …as we always have (famous last words!) or that it really isn’t true (the la-la-la defense, as Mark said the other day) or that, well, dammit, eating meat is still just plain bad no matter what, etc., etc. But, when all stock is taken and if we are honest with ourselves, most likely all that Lierre Kieth says in her book is true.The facts are out there if we are willing to look at them. That is basically what she does in her book: she lays out the facts. It was not easy for her either.

    1. Human anatomies much more resemble that of herbivores than carnivores. The famous Richard Leakey ( has come to this conclusion as has Dr Patrick Walsh ( and many others before them, including Carolus Linnaeus the botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology.
      That doesn’t mean that we cannot eat animals it just means that our bodies are “designed” to consume vegetable matter.

      Linnaeus writes: “Man’s structure, internal and external compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables are his natural food.”

      Walsh writes : “The only animals that have both prostates and seminal vesicles are herbivores-veggie-eating animals like bulls, apes, and elephants. There is only one exception to this rule: humans. Men have seminal vesicles, too. In other words, man, a meat-lover, has the makeup of an animal that should be a vegetarian.” (I’d like to see any of you, including keith dispute this!)

      Leakey writes : “[y]ou can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand…. We wouldn’t have been able to deal with food source that required those large canines”

      William C. Roberts, M.D., editor of The American Journal of Cardiology writes : “When we kill the animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings.”

      The list goes on and on. These people are qualified to make these statements. Someone like keith is not at all in the least.

      Again, people… READ!

      But the argument should end here: Even if we can eat animals to a degree, we can live healthfully without eating them. Therefore it is unnecessary for us to do so.

      One more quote from a favorite author of mine, Leo Tolstoy: “A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”

      And when did he write that? Think about it folks.

      1. It’s funny that when people start challenging the belief system here, comments start being moderated…

      2. William C. Roberts, M.D., editor of The American Journal of Cardiology writes : “When we kill the animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings.”

        Believing that statement right there shows you know ZERO about biochemistry or anything involving the human body. Please Miss C, show my one study that proves meat consumption kills us and I will gladly show you why the science around it is god awful.

        1. Even if I don’t, William C Roberts and the other I listed do.
          How are you qualified to say otherwise?

        2. And read The China Study -the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted.

        3. Oh my, C trots out the China Study.

          “What is most shocking about the China Study is not what it found, but the contrast between Campbell’s representation of its findings in The China Study, and the data contained within the original monograph.

          Campbell summarizes the 8,000 statistically significant correlations found in the China Study in the following statement: “people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease.”26 He also claims that, although it is “somewhat difficult” to “show that animal-based food intake relates to overall cancer rates,” that nevertheless, “animal protein intake was convincingly associated in the China Study with the prevalence of cancer in families.”27

          Figure 1
          Associations of Selected Variables with Mortality for All Cancers in the China Study
          Total Protein +12%
          Animal Protein +3%
          Fish Protein +7%
          Plant Protein +12%
          Total Lipids -6%
          Carbohydrates +23%
          Total Calories +16%
          Fat % Calories -17%
          Fiber +21%
          Fat (questionnaire) -29%*
          * statistically significant ** highly significant *** very highly significant
          (Data taken from the original monograph of the China Study.)

          But the actual data from the original publication paints a different picture. Figure 1 shows selected correlations between macronutrients and cancer mortality. Most of them are not statistically significant, which means that the probability the correlation is due to chance is greater than five percent.

          It is interesting to see, however, the general picture that emerges. Sugar, soluble carbohydrates, and fiber all have correlations with cancer mortality about seven times the magnitude of that with animal protein, and total fat and fat as a percentage of calories were both negatively correlated with cancer mortality.

          The only statistically significant association between intake of a macronutrient and cancer mortality was a large protective effect of total oil and fat intake as measured on the questionnaire. As an interesting aside, there was a highly significant negative correlation between cancer mortality and home-made cigarettes!28 Campbell’s case for the association between animal foods and cancer within the China Study is embedded within an endnote. Campbell states: “Every single animal protein-related blood biomarker is significantly associated with the amount of cancer in a family.”

      3. “Even if we can eat animals to a degree, we can live healthfully without eating them. Therefore it is unnecessary for us to do so.”

        Show me ONE culture that survives on no animal products and has ZERO degenerative disease.

        The ONLY thing that is in season year round is meat! Apples don’t fall from the tree continuously. There is a significant difference in surviving (you) and thriving (me).

        The fact that humans, whenever possible, chose animal flesh over plant based foods is neither arguable nor does it make any sense. Chose the food most dense in calories and nutrients.

        Your knowledge seems woefully inadequate on this topic. The traditional Inuit are some of the healthiest cultures ever known. With NO sign of any western diseases (Metabolic syndrome, CVD, Cancer, Hypertension, Obesity) and consisting on an predominantly all meat diet. Upwards of 70% fat. Please show me ONE vegan culture with this level of health.

      4. Leakey writes : “[y]ou can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand…. We wouldn’t have been able to deal with food source that required those large canines”

        My god how ignorant.

        We’ve been tool makers (stone) for at least 2.3 million yeas, Homo Habilis.

        And check this out, cause if you’re so ignorant about stone tools then you’re probably ignorant of the fact that our ancient primate ancestor the chimpanzee hunts cooperatively to kill colabus monkeys, rip them limb from limb to great tribal fanfare and eat the flesh.

        Smoke that, Mr or Ms Anonymous.

      5. I HAVE read the China Study. It may be one of the worst representations of research I have seen. His conclusions DO NOT even match the data from the China Project.

        READ CAREFULLY! Campbell makes the assumption that feeding rats pure casein protein (massive spike in both insulin and IGF-1) induces cancer. You cannot eat pure casein protein in nature!!! He feed them PROCESSED FOOD! He then takes this marvelous research and concludes that there is association between all animal protein. Only having data from feeding rats processed pure casein. I could have told you that would have gave them cancer. But that gives us nothing to go off of. It is very said so many people get confused by fancy graphs and big words. Learn how to read research!

        1. You just make comments about how ignorant people that disagree with the premise of this site. I think your readers can decide who is supporting their arguments with facts and who is ignorant… I hope.

  37. haha – clearly the entire premise is ridiculous, but even if it vegetarianism could be blamed for industrial grain agriculture – why do you think we grow so much Grain??? The U.S. ALONE could feed approx _800 million people_ (back in 1997) with grain that livestock eat.#1 Seems to be a case if ideology before facts me thinks…

  38. So what should we be eating? Meat from factory farming is of course bad, and apparently agriculture is bad, but if everyone ate grass-fed meat, wouldn’t the environmental impact of that still be pretty bad? Grass-fed is better, but animals, especially cows, still harm the environment. I guess there’s just too many people on the planet for there to be a good solution?

    1. That’s right, Cassie.
      Plus grass fed cows produce much more methane. Grass fed cows could not possibly be a solution to feeding the world’s population by a long shot and it accounts for a single digit fraction of cows “raised” for human consumption.
      Again, as I said above, eating animals is not only unethical because they are sentient beings, but it is also totally environmentally unsound for the current population, or even a small fraction of it.
      Grazing cattle is the #1 cause of top soil erosion and desertification, water pollution, and all around environmental degradation from small to large scale, much of this caused PRIOR to industrial animal ag.
      we have the current intensive, grain fed system because it’s the ONLY way the current population of omni’s can eat the meat and secretions they want. However it’s an inefficient use of resources from water, to grains, to land (especially in the case of grass fed), to fossil fuels and, as said above, it’s destructive to the planet. How many of you unapologetic omnis have read a pro vegan book? I’m willing to bet it’s not many if any at all because most folks seem to believe whole-heartedly what keith says although much of it’s been debunked over and over and over again.
      I’ve read the book and I find it amazing that people here think much of her info is true. I mean just in her introduction she makes elementary factual errors like saying there are no plant sources of tryptophan or saturated fat. She could have at least done a simple google search, and you all could too.
      She does do a decent job critiquing industrial ag, I’ll give her that. But her conclusions are as sloppy as Griff’s writing skills. ; ).

  39. Just read the part in the book about sprinting where Carl Lewis is mentioned as one of the best sprinters of all time. Ironically Lewis is a vegan who credits that fact as one of the most important factors in his performance.

    I don’t offer this as an argument to PB; only a fact to be pondered by those who are a little too single minded or believe that there is only one way to achieve great health and performance.

    1. Actually Carl Lewis didn’t turn vegan until 1990, and he frequently tested positive for performance enhancing drugs both before and after he switched his diet. I wouldn’t exactly hold him up as a good example of successful veganism under those circumstances.

      1. Understood that he didn’t go vegan until 1990 but he credits the switch in his diet to his highest athletic performance. In 1991 he set the world record in the 100 meter dash.

        Unfortunately, it seems most of the US Track team is on performance enhancing drugs. Just read an article in an issue of Self Magazine about a female sprinter who was stripped of her titles after she began working with the team “consultant” and tested positive for drugs. Basically she couldn’t compete if she didn’t. Sad state of affairs in pro sports today. It would be nice to see pure athleticism without the use of drugs.

        Even without the drugs, Carl Lewis would clearly be a competitor. Just thought it ironic that the very sprinter Mark mentions in the book is in fact a long time vegan.

  40. @C

    My, my, where to begin.

    First, please read the book we all started talking about. It might just be the awakener and educator that you clearly need. I have read the modern “bible” for vegetarianism, the China Study, and am well aware of many other vegan/vegetarian screeds. But, because I read other stuff (unlike you, I suspect) I can clearly tell the wheat from the chaff (pardon the grain-based metaphor).

    Humans are meat eaters, please look at actual, modern, biological, archaeological and anthropological sources. Of course, it’s possible that our distant ancestors –Lucy, and the like, were primarily herbivorous, but not us. Oh, wait, I forgot the 35,000 year old cave paintings showing humans hunting spirolina and goji berries, so I guess you must be right. Sheesh. All you need do is read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston Price and you’ll see what a true scientist, WITHOUT AN AGENDA, can do.

    You know, I have a number of friends whom I cherish dearly, but whom are vegans, as well. And, try as I might –gently, of course — I just cannot get through their kale-addled brains enough for them to begin to even entertain other viewpoints. This is most frustrating because they are getting sicker and fatter.

    Frankly, this issue might be the most fundamental difference between those who pray to the veggie gods and those who kneel to the meat deities; most primals/paleos/etc., HAVE actually examined alternatives, they HAVE educated themselves –usually extensively (speaking for myself and, I know, a number of others here) — and have finally come to their fact-based conclusions. Vegans, by and large, have not.

  41. Since this seems to be a site for true believers, I won’t waste much space trying to refute claims that vegans are all weak and sickly, etc. (The ones I know personally, including an international track medallist, seem remarkably healthy.) But I will note that if Lierre Keith thinks that killing microorganisms presents a moral dilemma for vegetarians, then perhaps she’s met some unusual vegetarians; in any case, she has a very poor understanding of the the ethical basis of vegetarianism. At the risk of having this post moderated out of existence for including a link, I suggest that anyone who is seriously interested in the ethical debate about animals read this book:

    While some sort of “paleo” diet is no doubt sustainable for a small minority, it is not sustainable for billions of people and will not become sustainable globally unless we bomb ourselves back to an uncivilized state of existence. A CIVILIZED global society can minimize negative environmental effects by becoming vegetarian — thus radically reducing the amount of agricultural land required to feed everyone and maximizing the amount of land available for wildlife. Also, a vegan diet minimizes the number of sentient creatures killed:

    1. @Beast man

      You seem not to have read the book so I would say that it is not Lierre Kieth who has a “poor understanding”. Kieth’s commitment to vegetarianism rested on a wide spectrum of beliefs, not just the trivial one you cited. She speaks with first hand knowledge of the various moral, political, and nutritional beliefs of vegan/vegetarians.

      Unfortunately, there will be far more head-in-the-sand vegan/vegetarians who will not educate themselves, than whom are willing to potentially disabuse themselves of long held dogma by at least exploring what Lierre Kieth has to say.

  42. This book is an important work and Lierre Keith is an author to watch. This book helped me end my 12 year stint as a vegetarian and vegan. I agree with most of her conclusions and agree with most of her sources. I don’t always like her sources (Weston Price Foundation has made some questionable claims about homosexuality, but their food and nutrition facts I find mostly accurate), but mostly I do. I find this a fairly agenda free book in regards to capitalism. Now who is going to tackle the question of over population and not have it turn into a thin veiled racist polemic? That’s what I want to know. Peak oil, climate change, monocropping, overpopulation, and about every “ism” you can think of is a hard battle to win. But they are all related and interconnected. There is a hard road ahead and Lierre Keith’s book helps up head down that road and in the right direction. The last thing Keith would want would for this book to turn into a dogmatic cult-like movement, so let’s help her out by incorporating the messages into other existing movements. Cheers everyone.

  43. I like the vegetarian concept of ahimsa, and so tried to be vegan for an extended period. I got sick and stayed sick, with a variety of imflammatory illnesses. Tried PB and these illnesses vanished. Repeated this twice more with similar results. Not scientific proof I know, but good enough for me.

  44. thanks for the review mark…and for your book. The journey towards this lifestyle has been remarkable for me. As a pastor who believes that we’re body/soul/spirit, I was particularly intrigued by the recurring theme Vegan Myth Book: No Life without Death! – That’s the message of Christianity, all the way back in the garden when God kills a couple of animals to provide coverings for the first couple.

    Hoping that you’re familiar with the work of farmer/poet Wendell Barry too. He’s a huge advocate for localized economies, and this is the place where my faith life joins all that you’ve been teaching. It’s a beautiful synthesis of realities!

    1. Richard:

      My last reply is baggage, and having read your reply again, I want to just say that in spite of that difference, I wish you all the best in health. For you and yours.

      I have pastors who are family and I love them, in spite of the fact I no longer value their religious beliefs. But I do value them.

      So, my former comment ought not be taken too harshly, I hope.

  45. “No Life without Death! – That’s the message of Christianity, all the way back in the garden when God kills a couple of animals to provide coverings for the first couple.”

    Laf, but SUPER points for style & entertainment!

    (former fundie baptist and now athie for 20 years)

  46. I ordered the book for my wife. I was a lacto-vegetarian for about 3 or 4 years back in the early 90’s. Although my health seemed acceptable back then, I had no way of knowing for sure since I was a broke grad student with no medical healthcare benefits (still broke, but at least I have a job with health insurance) … but I do know that I never felt as good back then as I do now with the PB dietary foundation.

    Back then I was searching for a non-religious spirituality in a very agnostic Gaia hypothesis sort of way and vegetarianism seemed to fit into my life at the time from both a spiritual and health quest perspective. I still wonder about the inter-connectedness of my life with the planet and although I would still consider myself agnostic, I feel that I have drifted more and more towards the atheistic end of the spectrum. And though I still wonder about my connectedness, I no longer have a need or desire to be connected just as I no longer see a need or desire to be vegetarian.

    I also have no need or desire to argue with ignorance (at least relative to my own) … so I’ll avoid trying to convince anyone of what way of life is right for them and instead sit back and read the posts for entertainment and/or a learning experience.

  47. Perhaps the book covers it, but what this blog entry doesn’t convey is that raising grain-fed meat is FAR more destructive to the environment than raising grain for people to eat.

    Modern agriculture in the US uses about eight times the arable land, water, and petroleum products to produce one pound of cheap, factory-farmed beef as it does to produce one pound of grain. EIGHT TIMES.

    Recommended film for those interested in US food production: “Food, Inc.”

    I have no moral qualms with grass-fed meat, or meat that comes from animals responsibly hunted, but do not eat factory-farmed products. I end up eating legumes & nuts almost daily, along with piles of vegetables, mostly because it’s actually easier & cheaper than procuring all of the grass-fed meat. Pastured turkey for Thanksgiving, the occasional buffalo burger or serving of fish, maybe some of my uncle’s venison at Christmas, that’s about all the meat I’ll have this year. Sorry, not going to can my values for the paleo craze.

    Oh, and as to healthy vegans: a certain Crossfitting, ultra-running Ironman I know is in great health right now — knocked nearly an hour off his best ironman time last weekend, and went totally vegan a while back. So if we are going anecdotal, spare me your “all vegans are unhealthy.” We should WISH to be as unhealthy as that guy!

  48. The entire “environmental destruction” issue – no matter what side of the meat-eating issue you’re on – misses the point. Was the environment “constructed”? Not unless you believe in God (and even then he did a damn poor job because if the Earth were a house, the plumber, electrician, and every other specialist would be over every day fixing the details).

    Look people, evidently 6 billion people is “sustainable.” If it’s not, then global warming and soil depletion will stir up a few natural disasters, famines, and resulting wars to take care of all of those extra humans. But one thing is for sure: without all of that big bad industry, 5.9 billion of those people wouldn’t be here.

    So what if the number is, say, 7 billion? Alright, let industry run free until the planet is “destroyed” all that much more and those extra billion people can live. And then, once that happens, the Earth will lash back and drop us back down to 6 billion (or whatever number it can really support).

    No amount of government action, dietary activism, or anything else is going to change the actual number of people the Earth can support. Hell, we can’t even figure it out except by finding out the hard way.

    So let’s stop talking about it, shall we? It’s a waste of time. The only reason anyone should ever be discussing vegetarianism vs. eating meat is for the dietary considerations.

    1. Grant, very good. Obviously, you’ve read or at least heard of, James Lovelock. So ultimately you may well be right and it’s pointless to discuss these matters. However, I’d point out that the sustainability of 6 billion people is not possible, as you suggest. Lierre Kieth’s book goes to some lengths to demonstrate this. (It really is a good read, you know.)

      The point she makes is, we are NOT currently on a truly sustainable path and THAT is why there’s all the fuss. If Lovelock and Kieth are right, then there’s nothing we can do to stem the tides of change anyway. Many will die. What she and others are saying, however, is ‘let’s see how we’re can survive or even thrive during the coming changes’ and let’s try to do it without everything turning into Mad Max.

      1. Whenever someone concludes that doing something is pointless and unnecessary, but that it should be done anyways, he or she is trying to sell a book, win social prestige, garner political power, achieve some kind of unsustainable internal peace, or some combination of all of those things.

        I’ll say it again: if 6 billion people is too many people, the extra people will die. Period. Do you think that doing it preemptively – by regulating the economic activity which made possible and maintains those extra people – is going to make them go quietly? You don’t want a “Mad Max situation”? In other words: you don’t want them to resist since that would destroy not only the portion of the economy they depend upon, but other portions as well? Fine, then you’re going to have to round them up and exterminate them. I suppose a “Nazi Germany situation” is preferable to a “Mad Max situation”?

        Here’s the solution (assuming you’re right that what we currently have is too many): no regulations whatsoever. Let the people who don’t achieve it die from their lack of access to fuel, clean air and water, nutritious food, and their protection from natural disasters. They’ll die in little spurts, and it will be entirely their own faults for losing at “musical chairs.”

        But, of course, environmentalists will never let this happen because – as I said above – their real agenda is to control other people’s lives, or to exploit their ignorance, so that they don’t have to have real jobs.

        (and no, I’ve never heard of James Lovelock. I realized the point I’m making all by myself).

        1. Grant,

          You say: “Here’s the solution (assuming you’re right that what we currently have is too many): no regulations whatsoever. Let the people who don’t achieve it die from their lack of access to fuel, clean air and water, nutritious food, and their protection from natural disasters. They’ll die in little spurts, and it will be entirely their own faults for losing at “musical chairs.”

          Well, that’s probably more like what is to happen, although I wouldn’t say the loser of the musical chairs is “at fault” for anything, other than being born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. My Mad Max allusion was not meant as you interpreted it. I didn’t take the time to think of a better one, I guess.

          You say: “(and no, I’ve never heard of James Lovelock. I realized the point I’m making all by myself).”

          Congratulations! No insult to your intellect was intended in my post.

  49. Vegan, high-raw (the difference maker for me) here. I recently made the switch and I personally feel great.

    In my opinion, Tte problem with the fundamentalist claim that vegetarians or vegans have health issues is the fact that you can eat poorly on ANY diet, including a plant-based one.

    So, I must mention: The modern bible for vegetarians/vegans is actually Thrive, by Brendan Brazier (not the China Study). Pro Ironman triathlete, spent 17 years honing his nutritional approach. You can eat unhealthily on ANY diet, he shows you how to “thrive,” and other than a bias against supplemental support (which I think is good for your everyday health-conscious person) and a bit of misinformation about agave (the book was published before this, but new research shows it is less healthy than previously thought, with fructose levels as high as hfcs), he is spot on. Great book about nutrition in general, even non-vegans have enjoyed that one.

    Also, just for an eye-opener, check out – browse around, I suggest you click profiles.

    And if you’re in the mood, there’s

    Again, regardless of this author’s experience, you can eat unhealthily and have health issues on just about any diet, one that’s high in animal products/cholesterol/fat, etc., or one that is high on organic plant matter.

    Meat or no meat, cooked food or no cooked food, I think a diet that is plant-based is great. With the open mind I had going into this, I still say “Don’t knock it til you try it!” And by the way, you don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to enjoy vegetarian or vegan meals and foods.

    I say try everything, be knowledgeable with whatever you’re doing, keep an open mind, and with that open mind – one that listens to find out rather than to confirm – be willing to possibly change or evolve (slowly at your own pace and on your own path of course).

    And again, if you are thinking of trying vegetarianism/veganism or a high-raw or 100% raw lifestyle, I suggest you check out the above resources, in addition to the myriad others that are out there.

    One more (one of THE BEST!): Go to youtube and search “Karyn Calabrese part 1” and watch the 4-part interview (the ten part is great too, when you get the time). That woman is 61, has been vegan for almost 40 years and raw for 20+ years. She looks amazing, and her health perspective is very interesting.

    Enjoy the links. Best of luck to all. Peace and good food this holiday season :-).

    1. Roxie, thanks for the various links. I will check them out as time allows.

      You make a very good point that any diet can be unhealthy. This is indeed one of the overlooked points in the “raw/vegan food is better for you” camp, isn’t it? The fact that people who switch to a vegan diet from their really crappy diet to something that is more fresh and whole is regularly overlooked. It is the vegetarian vs. meat-and-fat issue that is trumpeted. This is the message of many including Campbell and the “Food Matters” people, and many, many others. Another oft-overlooked point in almost any of these discussions — yet it’s something Mark has pointed out repeatedly — is that when vegetarian diets are compared to meaty diets and found to be “better” in some way, the “researchers” NEVER seem to correct for, or even check for, refined carbohydrate intake. They always point to meat-and-fat as the culprit. It is insidious.

      As regards Brendan Brazier, I would simply repeat the comments I made above about the Crossfitter ultra-triathlete fellow.

      Further to that, though, Brazier is still a young man, plus he has to jump through immense hoops to “thrive” as he does. One of the very precepts of the Primal or Paleo movement — call it what you will — is it’s rather simple. Being a raw/vegan is much more complicated and difficult. Unless, that is, you don’t want a nice variety of tastes and foodstuffs. And, it’s nearly impossible to thrive as Brazier does without supplementing, big time (Vega shake, anyone?). But, on a Primal type of diet, it is relatively easy to thrive.

      I know a man who has eaten an all-raw, primarily meat and fat diet for the past 35 years (meat/fish/fowl). He, like your vegan example, is 61 years old and looks amazing, too. (62, actually). His health perspective is definitely “interesting”. (Hell, I think a raw meat diet trumps a raw vegan one any day. LOL) However, most people would simply shy away from it because of all the pro veggie hype there is in the world.

      All is not quite as we think it is, I am sure.

  50. @cp
    You are right that growing grain to feed to animals is a big part of the problem. However, it is not “far more” destructive than growing grain for any other reason; it is the same. If you mean that there is more land devoted to grain for livestock, then you would be correct. But, either way, the destruction to the land/environment/ecosystem is equal. Obviously, you haven’t read the book, nor much of Mark’s blog because these issues are dealt with variously.
    Also, as regards your anecdote about the ultra-triathlete Crossfitter being healthy “right now”, well, I’m sure it appears that way to any who would care to look. Although, the words “right now” are perhaps telling. Who knows what the constant inflammation of his heart will do to him in the long run. Perhaps nothing, perhaps something. Same goes for the very high carbohydrate, or at least high calorie, diet he needs to be on to sustain the energy levels required to be in an “ultra” sport. How long can that be sustained? Don’t know. What happened to Steve Redgrave, the Olympic rower (type 2 diabetes) is not unexpected if you look into these things.

    Anyway, maybe the question should be, “do we equate what “ultra” athletes do or eat to “health” or instead, to performance?” I would say the latter. If you are an ultra anything, you are extreme. To be extreme is probably not the same as being “healthy”. Marathoners are known to die during competitions. This is unheard of for power and strength athletes such as powerlifters and Oly lifters, although many of the higher level ones do have shorter life spans which has often been attributed to steroid use. My point, though, is that both of these groups ought to be considered as very fit as measured by their level of performance — one is endurance, the other is strength, power, and explosiveness — but are they healthy?

  51. I will pick up a copy. I’m a vegan. I’d like to see the other perspective. Although I don’t think this simple book can alter my lifestyle. Veganism is NOT something you can just reverse in one day and frankly these don’t seem like strong enough arguments. Factory farming is not natural PERIOD.

  52. Look – I’m a cancer researcher and I just want to point out two things. 1) We are genetically quite different and react to drugs and food in very different ways. One can NEVER say that an individual cannot live as a vegan. This is nonsense. Some people will benefit hugely and others will suffer. The emerging field of personalized therapeutics and dietomics will reveal this. It will take a few years but you will see this happening. So please be careful with generalizations. I have known people who stopped getting ill when they stopped eating meat…OK they ate some fish. I know some extremely healthy vegans and I have met others who have become ill while a vegan. There are various reasons for this difference two of which are effort (completeness of the diet) and metabolic pathways (i.e., genetics).

    2) A philosophy that attempts to minimize the amount of suffering that animals go through should be seriously considered. The suffering these animals go through is very real and unnecessary in that it can be reduced greatly. So if one chooses to not eat meat because they have compassion for animals and do not want to participate in the meat industry, then I applaud their efforts. Watch I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and watch your reactions carefully.

  53. I find this standpoint very interesting indeed. I have to agree with the author when he states that something is inevitably going to die in the production of any sort of food. That’s just the way the life cycle. I live a mostly vegetarian lifestyle because of factory farming methods and because free ranged meats aren’t always free ranged (I know, I know, the food industry has never lied to us before). I do have no qualms about meat gathered either by my own hands or someone I know. Fishing or hunting, much like Grok would have done it. Its and odd lifestyle choice I know. I feel animals and humans should all be apart of the cycle. Factory farming looks a lot like a scene out a horror movie. I feel vegetarians can do very well and I personally have (granted I need to be more careful of grains), but it isn’t to say that the world should convert over night. We have to find that fine balance.

  54. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach is an interesting novel from the 70’s about the 3 west coast states seceding in 1999 (it was the future in the 70’s 😉 from the union and building a sustainable eco state, combining the best of green technology with the greenest best practices. Factory farming was eliminated, wildlife came back and the people once again actively hunted for a significant portion of their food and regressed to a more “primitive” (ie. primal) society.

    I spent a couple years on the vegetarian lifestyle. I quit many years ago around Christmas time as I went with some vegan friends to get real Christmas trees. As we loaded up our cars, I wondered why it was wrong to eat an animal but A-OK to kill hundreds of millions of trees every year (which lived 10-20 years before harvest) just to have it in our living room for a few weeks and then throw it out on the curb. Why was the tree not afforded the same respect as a chicken? Then I saw that same no-win abyss of guilt that Lierre Kieth saw. The guilt of just being alive.

    I realized vegetarians/vegans tend to personify animals. You are not eating chicken, you are eating a dear innocent animal named such and such. What they do not do is consider the big picture as outlined in “The Vegetarian Myth” where a grain based society may actually cause more environmental destruction, animal death and suffering. It’s the forest for the trees thing. It’s a poor chicken instead of populations of species.

    Unfortunately for cosmic randomness completely beyond our control, life MUST die so that life can live. And on a daily basis. And if you don’t think it is random and believe in god, then blame her. It was a diabolical idea indeed.

  55. Why the hating on vegetarians? I’m not one, yet some of the comments here seem as silly as the ones on vegan blogs which claim human beings do not have the proper teeth to ingest meat.

    Human beings as a species, omnivores that we are, can thrive on a fairly wide range of diets. Evidently certain kinds of diets at the fringe, such as extremely large amounts of saturated fats, show specific bad results in many predisposed people.

    As much as the vegans might wish it would happen, it is unlikely that the masses are going to reject meat eating and bring on the dire consequences described in this dystopian tome.

    The diet that is most healthy for one individual may not be the best for another. Complicating matters, some people will sacrifice their health for reasons emotional or ethical or hedonistic; for others, health trumps all.

  56. Why oh why oh why oh why! do Paleo’s and eat advocates ALWAYS falsely typecast and strawman vegetarians and esp. vegans as HIGH GRAIN/GRAIN DOMINANT consumption… grains are NOT a part of healthy, human diet… fruits/veggies/greens/seeds/nuts ARE…

    they are not equivical…. because one is a vegan per se, doesn’t = they are grain consumers, hence vegan diets (as falely and largely portrayed) are unhealthy and unfit for human consumption….

    ridiculous… I swear, I can’t believe the entire Internet is RIFE with all thee inaccuracies on BOTH sides….

  57. Its not a vegan or vegetarian vs meat eater paradigm. Its RAW vs cooked!

  58. The bottom line with vegetarianism is that humans are privileged to have a choice in what we eat. (At least for now, god help us.) Sure we kill organisms walking around or fighting a flu but that is certainly no argument for purposefully killing creatures to eat them. Elsewhere on this blog you’ve argued that animals kill one another for food, therefore it’s “natural” for humans. By that argument you could endorse cannibalism and infanticide as OK since chimps do it. I am not a vegetarian but my boyfriend is and I respect his decision. I try to eat healthfully, but obsessing over what or what not to put in my mouth and in what ratio, what time of day, and how often is not my idea of healthy. I am just thankful I can afford and have access to healthful food and clean drinking water.

  59. To a few posters, such as griff who write that living without meat or eggs is impossible;

    i’m a 21yo male living in UK, been vegetarian all my life and never eaten a single egg or single piece of meat.

    Im about 10% body fat and do gymnastics, karate and competitive swimming

    go figure

  60. @Sachi: Give yourself a few more years. And read Lierre Keith’s book “The Vegetarian Myth.” You will be sicker than a dog the longer you go on not eating what human beings evolved to eat, and it will be your own fault.

  61. I also know a strict vegan that is in exceptionally good health, never gets sick, and is very strong physically. So I think some people do well with that method of eating. I myself do much better on the low carb high protein method. Sugars and grains make me feel terrible. One has to figure out what works for their own body.

  62. @Griff

    I love the fact that your bashing something like veganism just because you obviously didn’t when you tried. I sense butthurt

  63. I’m reading this book now.. It’s so informative yet it’s saddening as you realize what has really happened to the environment around us. This is a book everyone should read.

  64. Author Of The Vegetarian Myth Attacked By Militant Vegans

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

  65. The most important thing is that we gain not only knowledge but some form of understanding. What someone sees as destructive practices others see as a livlihood. We cannot pass judgement b/c we’re all guilty of some form of industrialized practice that harms the earth. Will you stop driving your car b/c of emissions? No. There are alternative fuels yet they still produce emissions and harmful by products. Will we stop eating veggies from the grocer? No. not everyone can afford organic veggies and even if the nutritional level is under scrutiny its still better then going to the dollar menu at McDonalds. We have to do what we can within our own limitations. Of course the world would be a better place if we could do this or do that but our populations have grown so much that we truly don’t have a choice but to do industrialized farming methods to feed everyone.

  66. This book was one of the most powerful I’ve read – couldn’t put it down until the last bit in which she dives off into her progressive philosophy. Your summary, Mark, was excellent. Get it, read it.

  67. Ha, give this book to your vegan friends if you don’t want them as friends anymore. I am a vegan(4 years, vegetarian 9 years). I take a b12 supplement, and think that prioritizing a “natural” diet as one without supplements is more arbitrary a purity standard than a cruelty free diet. Even if being veg was guaranteed to shorten my life by 10 years, I would still not eat meat.

    someone mentioned that athletes had to eat meat, so I thought i would post this here: he is a vegan marathon runner

  68. People get way too attached to a particular viewpoint. Why do we need to shout people down and call them ignorant, etc? A few other points:

    More thinking at the margin- people tend to think in terms of categorical differences. Is it “unsustainable” for someone to eat grass-fed beef once a week? How about once a month?

    I do know one person who is vegan, 59, and seems very healthy. I find paleo convincing, but some of you are probably too confident in your beliefs. Let people experiment!

    I think the economy, agriculture and our interaction with nature are highly complex phenomena, and we don’t understand them very well. We’re probably best off with different people experimenting with a variety of lifestyles/ means of production.

    I have to say I find the sentience argument for veg hard to dismiss. I think what both sides overlook is the necessity of trade-offs. How many killed worms are equivalent to a killed rabbit, say? The answer is unclear- not sure which side it would favor.

    Vegs: Is there a method of agriculture that does not require animal stuff like manure? Not a snide question- I genuinely don’t know. If not, how do vegans deal with that? (Though I know in China they use human waste…)

    Sorry if this is too vague. Feedback is appreciated!

  69. The reviews indicate that there is a lot of misinformation in this book.

  70. Hi people,
    very interesting post and comments as well!
    I believe that the best thing you can do for yourself is to eat real natural foods. Now about vegetarianism, I am not sure what to think anymore…in a way, it sounds natural and normal to consume meat here and there (natural life cycle, I get that)but what about our digestive system, our teeth…why aren’t they similar to any other meat eating specie? What about the welfare of animals in our days? Seriously, I had to forget about what I was actually eating to be able to swollow it! What about the leading cause of death: Cardiovascular diseases…too much bad cholesterol (animal-based foods). I remember thinking to myself as a child, why do we drink cow’s milk? Isn’t that for baby cows…loll, well I ask myself that question again today, why all of those animal based foods…why so much, milk, yogourt, cheese, ice cream etc. Do we need it because it contains some good nutrients? Because many things do, yet it does not mean that we consume them! And last point, what’s up with the protein obsession, do cows need meat to get huge…?
    About a month ago I changed my eating habits, I eat far less animal based foods and feel much better…
    I’d love to hear from you guys and have some questions answered…

    1. “What about the leading cause of death: Cardiovascular diseases…too much bad cholesterol (animal-based foods).”

      …you really need to do some more reading around on this site.

      I’d like to briefly address the question “what’s up with the protein obsession, do cows need meat to get huge… ?” No, cows clearly don’t need meat to get huge, but they certainly do require protein (and fat). They get it by feeding carbohydrates (grass) to the microorganisms that live in their complex guts (those stomachs are referred to as “fermenting chambers” for a reason). Those microorganisms digest those carbohydrates (which are structurally useless to a cow and inefficient for energy compared to fat) and produce proteins (which are structurally vital) and fats (also structurally important and the preferred energy form for mammals and most other animals). These microorganisms are then digested and assimilated by the cow. When you work out the chemical processes, the cow itself actually consumes a near-zero-carb diet.

      I used to have a link to a study that analyzed the digestive systems of various animals. The actual macronutrient ratios assimilated by all animals involved was heavily skewed toward fats and proteins and low on carbohydrates, which makes sense considering that the biochemistry dictates that the actual metabolic requirement for carbohydrate is minor forcomplex animals (obviously plants and the orders of microorganisms are a different story).

      The most important thing to note here is that cows have a digestive system that converts their preferred food (grass) to the nutrients they need (fats and proteins). Humans do not have a digestive system adapted to meet that requirement; we can get what we need from plant sources but it’s highly inefficient and has harmful side-effects in the long run. Consuming animal products is ideal for humans; that’s the reason for the physiological difference between ourselves and our close cousins, the gorillas. They are grazing herbivores with specialized digestive systems to match, and we are active predators with the capacity to take advantage of plant foods to supplement. Our digestive systems are more similar to other omnivores and carnivores than to specialized herbivores.

      One might note that teeth are not an indicator of diet; gorillas have massive canine teeth despite their vegetarian ways. The evolutionary history of humans indicates that we used teamwork/strategy, primitive tools (particularly throwing, for which we have uniquely adapted shoulders), and a physiology suited for endurance to capture and kill our prey. Unlike lions that use their teeth in the act of killing their prey (thus requiring large hook-like teeth that inflict injury and hold securely), we just needed teeth that would give us the capacity to eat the meat we killed once it was dead (since I can eat a steak without trouble, they obviously get the job done). Developing big sharp teeth would be a waste of mineral resources by the body.

      Now that I’ve written way too much, I’d advise you to read some of what Mark’s written about cholesterol, and consider looking up Dr. Eades’s blog (I think that animal-digestive-system link I mention was found there somewhere), which I find to be one of the best sources of in-depth exploration of the human specie’s natural dietary habits on the web.

      I too went through a period where I lessened the animal products I was eating (I was dating a vegan) and I did indeed feel better. Now I know that that was because most of the animal products I was eating were heavily processed junk cooked in vegetable oils and frankenfats. The “feeling better” part didn’t last. After developing some noticeable health issues I did a lot more research (some of it here) that led me to my current very-low-carb eating habits, and not only do I feel the best I ever have, I’ve managed to put on an extra ten pounds of muscle in about a month (traditionally I’m a skinny hardgainer), even with regular fasting periods. I could go on about the positive effects I’ve observed, but I don’t want to let tonight’s steak marinade too long.

      Good luck with finding the answers to your health questions.

  71. I havn’t read the book, just this review but the basic argument seems to fall down on a couple of points.

    Firstly it ignores the agriculture required for the production of meat (or other animal products). it takes far more grains, water, resources to produce the same amount of animal based foods than plant based.

    Secondly, and maybe this is something that you have brought to the for front and is not such a major concern in the book(?) the effect on the soil of heavy agriculture is a modern problem due to a lack of crop rotation. This is GCSE biology ( taught to 14-16 yr olds in the UK)

    Thirdly anyone who seeks perfection will always be disappointed, for most vegetarianism and veganism have more realistic exportations.

    1. @alf: you assume that food animals like cattle and chickens are supposed to eat grains. They’re not. Pasture them! Let them eat what they’re supposed to eat – grass (and in the case of chickens, bugs). Eating meat is not the problem; feeding the meat animals stuff they’re not supposed to be eating is the problem.

      I won’t compromise my health that way; we shouldn’t compromise the health of our food animals either. You are what you eat, but you’re also whatever it ate. It makes more sense to feed them what they would eat naturally (grass) than to force them to eat what they don’t eat naturally (grain), doesn’t it?

  72. Griff – do you raise, pasture and butcher your own animals? Without grain? If not, perhaps you shouldn’t be asking someone else to.

    1. @TE: No, I don’t, but I do my best to buy grass-fed, cage-free, and pasture-raised whenever I can. And your comment seems to come from out of nowhere – would you like to explain why you think I’ve said people have to raise, pasture and butcher their own animals?

  73. Bunk!
    Some people’s systems JUST DO NOT TOLERATE MEAT!! All you carnivores, eat away……..but meat is
    not for everyone……..and believe it or not………vegetarians live longer and have fewer ailments!

    1. A few of my favorites people in the world have been committed vegetarians for most of their lives, and they have some serious health issues (despite their youth). One of them was recently relieved to learn that she does NOT have breast cancer, as the doctor had suspected. Adding breast cancer to her already long list of ailments would probably kill her.

      She’s 23.

      I note that my own specific health issues (eczema, asthma, mediocre immune system) have pretty much disappeared since becoming almost exclusively carnivorous, as well as reaching a level of general health that I never have before. I used to think I was healthy, and so did everyone else, but I know now that I just didn’t know what being truly healthy felt like.

      If your digestive system can’t handle animal fats and proteins, that’s a sign of a physiological disorder. The intestines may be permanently damaged by years of exposure to toxic proteins like wheat gluten, or the microbiotic fauna of the gut may be screwed up. We all have the same basic genetic template for our immune systems, and the resulting organs are quite capable of digesting animal products by default. You can only change that by damaging them.

  74. wow, seems to me like the biggest problem is consuming processed foods, whether they be veggie or non-veggie – i’m curious what health problems y’all who’ve tried veggie diets encountered & whether you are certain it is because you lacked meat in your diet – or perhaps because your diet was not well-balanced with a wide variety of plant-based foods – just curious – i was the biggest meat-eater my first 20 yrs of life – then went ‘junk-food’veggie’ then ‘junk-food-vegan’ and became obese, but i cut the processed foods & went ‘high-raw vegan’ (ideally 80-10-10 high fruit/veg carb, low protein, low fat, only sprouted grains & grasses – organic ripe fruits, land & sea veggies, sprouted nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, spouts) & reversed all ailments & all the excess weight just melted off – i’m now 45 yrs old – i’ve run 5 full marathons, am a mixed-martial arts fighter – had 3 fights – beat women less than half my age – haven’t been sick once, not even a sniffle, since i went high-raw – and i am certain the remaining 10 lbs i need to lose would come off & my remaining allergies to cats would disappear if i could just avoid the bread/chips – because when i went 100% raw, i did lose those 10 lbs & my allergies did disappear – they just came back cause i started in with the bread/chips again – like some others, you could show me all the scientific proof in the world that we need flesh to survive, even to thrive, and i would still pass, but i am curious what awful diseases i should look forward to so i can prepare my living will

    1. Be prepared for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, migraines, and high blood pressure. It’s the carbs, not the processing or non-processing of them. Human beings were not designed or evolved to eat grains and grasses. I know. I tried for years and was a vegetarian for two of those years, eating all the healthy-whole-grain nonsense. Thank Ghu I had anaphylactic reactions to soy, or I could have ended up with much worse problems. As it was, I had severe arthritis, diabetes, IBS, migraines, you name it, I probably had it. Since going PB and ditching the ridiculous nonsense that is vegetarianism, I’m healthy and have no trace of any of those problems I used to have.

      You can either subscribe to an unsubstantiated and scientifically unsupported ideology (i.e. vegetarianism/veganism) or you can look at the science and accept the reality, which is that the human animal cannot survive and THRIVE without eating other animals. Period, end of story, and that’s all she wrote. There are plenty of resources on this site and others, but the best place to start is Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and the Eades’ book “Protein Power.” And, of course, Mark’s book. Have fun.

      1. So far, my blood pressure is 96/67, and my cholesterol is so low the doctor called me to tell me how great it was, if those are supposed to be risk factors for heart disease. I have to wonder if your reactions to soy were because all soy is genetically modified unless organic, and even then, there is some contamination. But thank you – I look forward to experiencing the rest of the diseases, and I don’t pay science much attention as I use my own body as a barometer. Now I need to download Living Wills Online.

        1. My Grandmother also had rave reviews from her doctor about her low cholesterol. Since then, she’s had four strokes, the last leaving her almost quadriplegic. She was playing croquet and tennis right up til her 80th birthday.

          Read ‘The Great Cholestorol Con’ or look up scientists who explain the realities behind cholesterol measurement and the specifics of what to look for.

          I don’t care if you’re veg or omni or carni, but if you’re relying on GPs to tell you the truth about health and wellbeing, when all they really know is what the pharmaceutical companies tell them, then you’re putting too much trust into their hands. Your body won’t always tell you everything – you need to be smart about the choices you make.

  75. Yes, Girl Gone Primal, I agree with you about cholesterol – that’s why I said IF you regard it as a risk factor. I do not, and that’s why I’m trying to get my parents off cholesterol lowering and blood pressure lowering pills. However, most people still do regard these markers as risk factors, and that’s why I mentioned them. I rely on how I feel. I no longer go to doctors. My choices may not be smart as far as my health, but I feel better than ever. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years and still do not supplement either. And even the vegetarian gurus tell me I will have b12 problems. I accept it all and will never eat raw meat to my deathbed.

    1. Sue, I think the key to what your are talking about, and what Griff is missing, is that you are high RAW foods. That means you aren’t eating the grains that Griff is referring to so you are not going to have the diabetes and other various problems associated with carbs. Eating greens and fruits is not the same as eating grains.

      I found this site coming from a raw foods diet at a time I realized that I probably couldn’t give up fish completely. I pretty much eat mostly raw with some fish and eggs. Many people on this site seem to have on their “meat-goggles” and miss the point that Mark advocates eating lots of veggies so once the word vegan, vegetarian or raw foods come up people want to stomp all over you. Mark’s wife eats much the same as I do. She doesn’t eat red meat or chicken and was raised in a veggie family. She is also in fabulous shape but I don’t think that gets enough attention on the boards.

      Anyway, I’m with you on the raw foods and mucho chlorphyll wave and I understand your aversion to animal foods. That doesn’t mean that you can’t eat the primal way.

      1. Yes, Melanie, the emphasis would be on raw and unprocessed. I think the body can detox 5-10% of most anything other than raw produce, including meat, and including some grains. I actually do still eat sprouted grains from Mana & Ezikiel bread. Meat just doesn’t groove with my ethics, so I opt out. I just came on this blog to see what diseases I might want to prepare for. So now I’ve been warned, tho the list looks to me like diseases of affluence, dieseases associated with more with eating animal products than with eating plants. But I appreciate your gentle, accepting, and non-confrontational manner of speaking. Thanks.

  76. I heard a talk by Ms Keith on my local public radio station when this book came out. She also emphasized that she suffered many health problems as a result of her vegetarianism–depression, anemia, chronic fatigue. Really good talk.

    Haven’t read the book yet but after reading this review, I’m going to have to rush out and buy it!

  77. This book was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and veganism.

    Brilliant, just brilliant.

    I’m now eating primal and feel better than I have since I was in high school. Maybe better. I’ve effortlessly lost weight, enjoyed rich and delicious food, and – most important of all – have TONS of energy. I feel normal again.

    Thank you Mark AND Lierre!

  78. This book has a lot of good points. I am a former vegetarian who is starting to introduce fish/meat into my diet after 10 years. However, it’s more about the books on Paleo that I read that persuaded me.


    Because Lierre Keith is an a-hole.

    Sorry to get vulgar here, but listen to all these commenters (and Keith) talk about “Nobler-than-thou vegetarians”. Read a few pages of Keiths book and tell me that she is not the epitome of nobler-than-thou.

    She has no respect for vegans/vegetarians at all, and rather than give strictly rational arguments and gently guide you to her viewpoint, she uses demagogue tactics and contantly bashes vegetarian’s intellect. Gee, nice persuasive piece.

    Another problem she has is that she projects all her problems onto vegetarianism. All her physical problems are from being vegan.

    Really? What’s up with vegan powerlifters then?

    Being vegetarian makes you depressed and causes psychosis.

    Really? It’s interesting Lierre how you admit early in the book that you have a family history of mental illness and depression.

    She makes it sound like if you are a vegetarian, you will die. This is BS. There are plenty of healthy vegetarians, and I doubt they’re any more likely to be crazy, depressed, etc. I’m still exploring what the best diet is, but I wish this book was written by someone with half a brain who used more facts and less sensationalism, proofread their facts (there are plenty of errors even the casual reader can pick off), and actually presented in a way that was designed to go down smoothly. Remember that whole thing, more flies with honey than vinegar?

  79. The book comes across as well meaning, if a bit harsh towards the veg crowd. The points she make in the book are valid observation. The only issue is that the facts and science used to back up these observations is flawed, often selective to make “her” point and sometimes mathematical misconstrued from her source materials. Though it is well written and has rilled the the masses.

  80. I am a vegetarian, and I recently downloaded the and have skimmed parts of it (reading is not my strong suit). I have never been a vegetarian because I thought it was healthful. I went against all of my family’s concerns to be a vegetarian from age 3 or 4 when I realized what meat was (I was a stubborn, odd child). I have always been a vegetarian on moral grounds, but I have always thought that my health suffered as a result. I have had mental health issues and led a sedentary life for the last 8 years in combination with being on prescritpion drugs known to cause high blood sugar and even lead to diabetes. I asked my doctor for a blood sugar test and found out I have an A1C of 6.4, even though I am only moderately overweight. I found this out over a month ago and drastically changed my diet.

    Going against everything the ADA says, I have been trying essentially to eat foods that will not raise my blood sugar. I have had some good weight loss, as well, as a result, and my blood sugar when checking with a monitor has been normal (at least what doctors consider normal).

    But since this diagnosis (I actually wasn’t diagnosed with diabetes, but I could have been), I have struggled with the idea of eating meat. The thing is that I feel like I can easily get full now that I am eating more real foods–vegetables, nuts, nut butters, hard boiled eggs. I am not starving, and I am eating a lot less than I had been. I have pretty much cut out all grains. So I don’t even know if I will need to eat meat to continue seeing gains.

    My situation is also unique in that I never, ever felt that I was depriving myself by not eating meat. The one year I ate meat in third grade was when I lived in Sweden and my grandmother forced to me to eat meat. She was a doctor and worried for my health. I had to plug my nose as I ate it and chewed as fast as I could and swallow the meat with something to drink really fast.

    I don’t know if I could bring myself to eat meat beyond the moral issues. I simply find it disgusting. I find eggs disgusting too, and I will quickly eat a hard boiled egg and then swish my mouth with water and swallow fast to get it all down. I hate it. And I would hate meat even more. It completely grosses me out to think about what it is–it would be like that Fear Factor show for me.

    But anyhow, I may check this book out in case it turns out that I need to keep making changes to see more gains with my blood sugar and weight. As for right now, I can’t understand how I am not fighting hunger. I seem to have had a positive turnaround for about a month and a half now, but I won’t get my next A1C test to see if things really have improved for almost 2 months.

    This book could be helpful. It’s an odd thing to want to convince yourself to eat meat. I almost thought of asking my therapist to help me with it! But, again, because of my family’s influence, and now the research I read, I have never thought I was being healthier by being a vegetarian. It was always a moral thing and a disgust thing. If I could swallow a meat pill, that would probably solve 95% of the problem. Because if I’m honest, I already take fish oil every day, and so technically that goes against my ethics, but I don’t have to deal with the disgust of it. So maybe at this point, it’s less a moral thing, and more of a disgust thing. Because if someone gave me a nice leather bag, I’d probably take it and use it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy one though…

    Anyhow, enough of my late night rambling..thanks for the info on the book.

    1. I, too, refrained from eating meat from age 20-26 or 27 (it was a long time ago) for moral reasons. I could eat eggs, but not caviar; that is, nothing that involved the death of an animal. (Chicken eggs that you eat are unfertilized.) Cheese and dairy were OK. What returned me to the omnivore fold was the beginning of Romans 14, in the Bible:

      “1. Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

      “2. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.

      “3. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him” (NASB).

      Of course, the OT is explicit about eating meat, so if I were morally afraid (Cf. verse 2), I should take the word of “the author of all things” that eating meat was OK. In fact, other animals do it, too, with nary a pang of conscience.

      But I think a careful (lacto-ovo) vegetarian diet can be healthy (although I eat meat now); the protein from the eggs and dairy could prevent one from taking that meat pill (which would be B complex vitamins). For a fish pill I would substitute a flax-seed pill. (Notice also that the Bible quote above does not denigrate vegetarianism. The same chapter, verse 20b, says “All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense,” which I would interpret as “If you believe it is a sin, then it is a sin.”)

      I bet there were some (actual) paleolithic vegetarians.

    2. Marcus, if you’re already incorporating eggs into your diet, then you shouldn’t need to add meat if you don’t want to. Eggs are just as high in fat, protein, and nutrients as pretty much any meat. Just make sure you eat plenty of them.

      An aside: replacing the fish oil with flax oil would not be a good idea. The body needs DHA, which is what you find in fish oil. The omega-3 element of flaxseed oil is ALA, which the body is extremely inefficient in converting to the DHA it needs.

      Buying omega-3 enriched eggs might be a good way to go if the fish oil starts to bother you. Or at least if you get tired of taking pills (I know I do).

  81. There are certainly cases of vegetarians and vegans who don’t know how to manage their diet, so they get all the nutrients, including the essential amino acids and B12, but that are by far more meat eaters (MILLIONS!) who don’t know how to manage their diet and are in seriously poor health–on death’s door.

  82. I normally wouldn’t comment on a place like this, as my diet doesn’t bear much resemblance to the primal diet, but I just had to comment on this…
    I, like many ethical vegetarian/vegans, used to be a vegan. I thought one cow not killed equals one animal saved. Nobody ever proposed a bigger picture image to me, and I never thought of it myself. To be honest, it was reading the reviews of this page that really made me think about “am I really doing the right thing?” Anyways, after thinking about it for a week or two I decided the arguments were right, and that I really wasn’t saving the planet by being vegan, so I introduced eggs, a little goat cheese, and eventually some meatloaf (Yes mark, I’m aware enough of your views on the oats and would actually be appreciative if someone could give me feedback on how to avoid constipation without the soluble fiber, as I had this problem when I tried to eliminate beans/grains from my diet). I felt amazingly better, I felt much stronger, more awake, my digestive issues resolved, life was good. However, I don’t think this is a realization many vegetarians are able to make yet. When I try pose some of the arguments in this book to vegetarians I know, all they see is “you now kill animals, I dont kill animals, you traitor bad person.” Perhaps it’s because it would make them somehow equal to other people, which terrifies them. I guess I was just curious if anyone else has has experiences with such people who just seem so closed to the idea that vegetarianism isn’t morally superior? Would be cool to hear others experiences, thanks.

  83. I suggest that anyone thinking of reading this book fist check out it’s top review on

    Apparently this book is only 8% backed up by reality.

  84. Industrially grown corn is not even edible, it is used to feed the factory grown cattle (which they aren’t even designed to digest), and to produce high fructose corn syrup. So it has nothing to do with vegetarians. And if everyone was vegetarian, we would need much much less crops to feed everyone, which could be grown sustainably and organically. I have nothing against sustainably grown animals for food if someone wants to eat meat. Just industrial farming and agriculture – how it’s done and for what purposes (profits) – is the root cause of problems.

  85. I would suggest, as has been stated before, to read the review posted on Amazon by an apparent Phd student on the apparent wild inaccuracies included in this book. The comment was far too large to completely paste in here but here are some excerpts:

    1) pg. 140: The author states that “Carbon-13 is a stable isotope present in two places: grasses and the bodies of animals that eat grasses”. She goes on to suggest that since there is no evidence of grass “scratch marks” on the human teeth found, that they must have been eating animals. There are many flaws in this thought process. First, I cant even begin to explain the preservation and degradation issues present in examining three million year old teeth for ‘scratch marks’. Second, carbon-13 is an isotope found in ALL terrestrial and marine plants, not just grass. Finding high levels of C3 or C4 (which are what carbon-13 breaks down into) in human teeth only means that that human was eating large amounts of SOME plant, seed, nut, etc. (not JUST grass) or the animal that ate those. It is not as simple as GRASS OR COW.

    2) pg. 142: The author states that there are no bacteria in the human stomach. This is simply untrue. In 2005 Barry Marshall and Robin Warren won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering a stomach bacteria that causes gastritis and ulcer disease. There are currently over 130 known stomach bacteria.

    3) pg. 146: The author states a “rumor” authored by RB Lee about hunter-gatherers getting 65% of their calories from plants and 35% from meat. She states that this “simply isnt true”. First, this rumor-spreader is one of the most well-respected anthropological/archaeological researchers in hunter-gatherer studies who edited what is considered THE tome on hunter-gatherer theory, ‘Man the Hunter’. He isnt some random hack. Second, saying those numbers ‘simply arent true’ is simply not true. Hunter-gatherers did and do inhabit a huge range of environments and likewise their diets cover a wide range. Some do follow the 65/35% number. Some eat much more meat. Some eat much less.

    These are only three examples from a span of six pages. This pattern continues throughout the entire book. Fact is the authors ‘facts’ just arent believable (which, again, is a shame because a factual book on this topic could be powerful). She writes as if the anthropological and archaeological evidence she quotes is written in stone, when in fact many of these topics are constantly under revision or not well understood yet. Most importantly, I just believe that writing a book and promoting it as a factual, scientific account of a subject when it is not is doing a great disservice to your (mostly) unknowing readers. If you are not willing to put in the real research effort, write a book that is touted as a personal account and nothing more. Selling flubbed facts to people who are truly searching for answers, inspiration or (insert what you are looking for here) is just bad journalism.”

    The entire comment is here with subsequent comments made and I’d recommend anyone to seriously consider reading this before buying the book.

    I have my own views on the topic but for now, I’d rather leave it to the archaeologist/anthropologist who is qualified in the field.

  86. I should preface this by saying, I am a vegan. I think killing/mistreating nonhuman animals is, all other things being equal, just as ethically problematic as is killing/mistreating human animals. I do not, however, find anything intrisically wrong about utilizing cruelty-free animal bi-products. I choose to be vegan because there is no for certain way to determine that your eggs or milk were in fact derived by cruelty-free means.


    Personally, I roundly reject the idea that “doing what you ought to do” means the same thing as “doing what is ‘natural'”. First of all, while “Nature” may be an easy thing to grasp when talking about, say, the nature of a rock,talking about “human nature” is nearly impossible, since we are capable of deliberating about what decisions we will make, etc. Sure, we have biological functions, and psychological processes. But when it comes to determnining a basis for human behavior, the concept of “nature” is akin to the idea of “normalcy”. Simply put, the bases for these ideas are typically spurious. Moreover, even if one believed they had a clear grasp of what “the” difinitive nature of humankind is, it still would not follow that one “ought” to do what is in one’s nature. I’m not sure where this trope comes from, but it’s perevasive in our cultural mythos. Nevertheless, no matter how many people believe you can soundly base an ethic in a notion of human nature, it remains a flagrant violation of the “is/ought” gap.

    I also, personally, reject the idea that “killing” or “death” – where these terms are understood in opposition to “biological life processes” – are, in themselves, morally problematic. I see no reason to maintain that “killing” a plant is any more morally problematic than sanitizing one’s hands (i.e., killing bacteria), or even tearing a piece of paper. The reason for this is that plants, like paper, and bacteria, don’t possess sentience – a capacity to feel pain, or pleasure. Since they don’t have any “inner states” or “subjectivity”, plants can’t possibly have, much less express, a preference about what is done to them.

    Animals on the other hand (by which I mean all vertebrates, and some invertebrates like octopi) DO have such inner states. They are, like humans, capable of experiencing pain, suffering, fear, and anxiety. They do possess, and in most cases express, thier preference to not suffer, and of life over death.

    Moreover, the fact that some can say with a straight face that “100% cruelty-free living is not possible, therefore I should not try to live as cruelty-free as possible” is baffling to me. So, the Platonic ideal of “the Good” isn’t attainable. Is this a reasonable justification for having no moral scruples whatsoever? for being lax with your struggles to be ethically just? It seems like just so much lazy thinking, and living.

    It should be clear that defending the killing of vertebrates (and some invertebrates) for the consumption of thier flesh cannot be defended by the fact that the production of vegetables inevitably leads to the killing of inumerable slugs and insects, not to mention bacteria and the plants themselves.

    1. I completely agree. Killing animals for food is wrong and also unnecessary. The death of animals in agriculture for grains and such is unfortunate.

      Many people on here (I’ve read all of the comments) say that we should make meat growing as sustainable as possible. Why not make growing plants as sustainable as possible too? If everyone ate right (fewer grains because many people have cited that these are the problems) and these plants were grown properly we could minimize ALL damage.

      Someone previously asked how the soil could accumulate. Let animals(ungulates) coexist, but when it comes to harvesting herd them away. Leave part of the field growing at all time so the system never crashes.

      I know that this will be impossible to coordinate because lots of people here want meat. But saying that vegetarianism won’t work to save the planet. Granted I haven’t read the book, but I feel as if it would be very challenging to feed 300+ million Americans on organic, free ranged meat at the same consumption rates we have now.

      So in short, eating less meat AND improving the way meat is grown (organic) AND improving plant cultivation must ALL be included if we are concerned about the environment.

      1. Oops.
        I meant “But saying that vegetarianism won’t work to save the planet” doesn’t make sense to me.

  87. I didn’t read through all the comments (seems like this stirred up some debate!) but wanted to note that I read this and enjoyed it.
    Pros: passionate and poetic author, and most importantly, gets the gears turning on some really important issues regarding diet and sustainability. This book is what I call soapbox-vegan-DEET… I respect a good argument about anything but MAN vegans can get on their high-horse sometimes, and here you’ve got a bunch of valid arguments to present to get some intelligent conversation-a-brewin’.
    CONS: the scientific data is poorly presented. The nutritional stuff in this book would have benefited by a co-author with a scientific background. Luckily I’ve already read the science stuff, so I could brush it off, but a newbie could question the whole shebang based on this author’s presentation of the data. Also, this author is kind of extremist, and extremist feminist for sure, which kind of gets in the way. Her feminist comments aren’t even valid to the content half the time. Also, she recommends not driving a car and not having children to save the world, and I’m a big believer that our lives ARE our experience. Choosing to forego travel or child-rearing to save the planet really goes against my personal philosophy, no matter how “good” it may be. Just saying, brace yourself for some preaching that you may or may not agree with.
    Overall a good read, and I’d recommend it to any vegan or vegetarian, just to get them thinking about a different perspective.

  88. 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

  89. after only reading the review, i just got to notice that most people are forgeting, that these animals need to be fed. so anyone who thinks the giant amount of meat we are even now consuming could probably be produced by wild living, grass eating cows is just a brainwashed naive moron. the industrial countries (US, canada, germany (general EU) etc) are AT THE MOMENT importing corn and soye from countries like argentine who destroy vast areas of rain forest to support this export. there are a lot of antibiotics getting into the water and lots of grain or soye “destroyed” by feeding it to animals. intensive lifestock farming NEEDS industrial agriculture to produce these amounts of meat.

  90. I know this is an older post and I’m not sure of what type of response I’ll get (if any). However, I found this review on Amazon and thought it was pretty good. I have not read the book yet. After reading Mark’s review I was interested in picking it up(as an eight year vegetarian thinking of a switch). In the rest of this blog it is clear that Mark cares about facts and loves to share new studies. So I wanted to bring this counter review into the arena to see what the reaction was.

    To clarify, the bottom portion of this comment is NOT my review, but one I copied on here from Amazon.

    I’m interested to hear what everyone has to say about the apparent gap from Mark’s review to this one.

    I want to be clear about a few things:

    1) I am a female.
    2) I give the idea of this book 5 stars, but its execution 1.
    3) I have been a radical vegan, a rabid meat-eater and everything in between (currently in the in-between)
    4) I am working on an archaeological PhD on hunter-gatherer diets, subsistence, hunting and transition to agriculture.

    I picked this book up after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals”. I thought it would be interesting to read a different perspective on the vegetarian debate. I found Safran Foer’s book to be much more geared towards the inhumane practices of meat while Keith’s book is geared more towards diet/health.

    I admit that it took a very long time for me to get through this book, for several reasons. I purchased this book hoping to get something out of it. I am not an upset vegan who wants to hate it and I am not someone who bought it knowing Id love it. I was just neutral. There were two main reasons for my disappointment with the book. One minor, one major. First, I found the second agendas (specifically the radical feminism) distracting and unnecessary. I have nothing against the feminist agenda, but this wasnt the place to put it. Second, I found the book absolutely riddled with bad information, faulty facts and just plain lazy research (if you can call it ‘research’). As someone who intensively researches these issues on a daily basis, I found myself underlining items on nearly every page that I knew were just plain untrue or were ‘cherry-picked’ facts slanted to give a certain perception. This is such a disappointment as a really great case could be made for the author’s view if she had only put the real work into researching the book properly. Once you lose the reader’s trust that you are providing factual information what do you have? Ill provide examples:

    1) pg. 140: The author states that “Carbon-13 is a stable isotope present in two places: grasses and the bodies of animals that eat grasses”. She goes on to suggest that since there is no evidence of grass “scratch marks” on the human teeth found, that they must have been eating animals. There are many flaws in this thought process. First, I cant even begin to explain the preservation and degradation issues present in examining three million year old teeth for ‘scratch marks’. Second, carbon-13 is an isotope found in ALL terrestrial and marine plants, not just grass. Finding high levels of C3 or C4 (which are what carbon-13 breaks down into) in human teeth only means that that human was eating large amounts of SOME plant, seed, nut, etc. (not JUST grass) or the animal that ate those. It is not as simple as GRASS OR COW.

    2) pg. 142: The author states that there are no bacteria in the human stomach. This is simply untrue. In 2005 Barry Marshall and Robin Warren won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering a stomach bacteria that causes gastritis and ulcer disease. There are currently over 130 known stomach bacteria.

    3) pg. 146: The author states a “rumor” authored by RB Lee about hunter-gatherers getting 65% of their calories from plants and 35% from meat. She states that this “simply isnt true”. First, this rumor-spreader is one of the most well-respected anthropological/archaeological researchers in hunter-gatherer studies who edited what is considered THE tome on hunter-gatherer theory, ‘Man the Hunter’. He isnt some random hack. Second, saying those numbers ‘simply arent true’ is simply not true. Hunter-gatherers did and do inhabit a huge range of environments and likewise their diets cover a wide range. Some do follow the 65/35% number. Some eat much more meat. Some eat much less.

    These are only three examples from a span of six pages. This pattern continues throughout the entire book. Fact is the authors ‘facts’ just arent believable (which, again, is a shame because a factual book on this topic could be powerful). She writes as if the anthropological and archaeological evidence she quotes is written in stone, when in fact many of these topics are constantly under revision or not well understood yet. Most importantly, I just believe that writing a book and promoting it as a factual, scientific account of a subject when it is not is doing a great disservice to your (mostly) unknowing readers. If you are not willing to put in the real research effort, write a book that is touted as a personal account and nothing more. Selling flubbed facts to people who are truly searching for answers, inspiration or (insert what you are looking for here) is just bad journalism.

    Ill end this review with some facts and encourage any readers (whether you liked the book, hated the book or havent read the book) to always question whether what you are reading is true and to do some research of your own.

    The author cites 207 references in this book.
    62 of those references are websites (~30%)
    18 are newspapers and magazines (~7%)
    32 are journals (~15%)
    95 are other books (~46%)

    First of all, think about that. 30% of the references in this book come from website information. Five of those 62 website references were Wikipedia. Wikipedia! One was Google Answers. I wont let my freshmen students use Wikipedia as a reference in their papers, why would it be acceptable for a book? Like websites, newspaper and magazine information needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Of the 32 journals less than half come from well known, peer-reviewed sources. The remaining 46% are books, which can truly say anything the author cares to print (as this one does) and only show that the author is getting her information from another source (and another opinion) aside from the primary one. The point of this is to make clear that this is a book that is sold as (and which many positive reviews hype as) providing scientific, factual, intellectual knowledge on the vegetarian/diet/health debate. In reality less than 8% of the book is coming from peer-reviewed, fact-checked sources which can provide unbiased, neutral information.

    If anything I hope this review encourages people to get away from the bias on either side, find factual scientific sources instead of second-third-fourth hand knowledge, check information for yourself instead of blindly believing an author, and to question published material and push for it to actually be factual if it presented as such.

  91. HUH???!!!???
    What is ‘vegetarian agriculture’?! Agriculture is just agriculture! If there was such a thing as ‘vegetarian agriculture’, it wouldn’t exist to ‘eliminate’ animals. First of all, vegetarians want animals to be free to
    roam around in their natural habitats, and second, vegetarians don’t not eat meat in order to make cows extinct. What kind of ridiculousness is this?

    2nd – Agriculture is incredibly destructive, it is true, but which Agriculture?! Well the western world does need to realise that.
    A lot of that land is being used to grow food for ANIMALS that are being mass produced, injected with steroids and hormones, to be killed afterwards and sold as cheap meat… – and the land that the animal herds live on is even worse for the environment than cropland, I believe! So that is the bad Agriculture we talk about here.

    3rd – “the machines that worked the soybean fields were greased with the blood of a thousand organisms.”
    VOMIT! This is horrid horrid horrid! What loaded language! More ridiculousness! GREASED WITH THE BLOOD! Haaaaaaaa!

    Anyone knows that a good vegetarian/vegan is interested in the health of the planet, and is going make their choices, particularly concerning what they consume, accordingly. Most vegetarians are aware of the problems of agriculture and food production, and are interested in not only not eating animals, but in doing their part to not partake in the horrors of mass animal production and slaughter and the terrible environmental consequences of all that. It’s about being aware of where the world is now, understanding that it’s not great, and trying to turn things around. Not eating animals is a damn good start.

    For example, the livestock industry alone accounts for more carbon emissions than the auto industry (nearly one and a half times more, in fact – at least in the US, in 2006, according to the NMDL book). I’m not going to look up any more statistics right now, because this rant has wasted enough of my time already…

    So basically we need to be clear of which “Agriculture is bad”, when you say/read that. Well the bad agriculture is bad. The one that doesn’t serve its purpose, to feed hungry people. The one that feeds mass produced animals…! We have to sort that out.

    And I’m not going to go into why meat isn’t a good choice, and comparing with vegetables nutrition facts,
    Just watch a doc “Forks Over Knives”, “Food Inc”, “Food Matters”, “Earthlings”… and stats will tell you all…

  92. Yeah….has anyone touting the book as gospel, bothered doing a background check on this author? She’s a radical nutcase. Forks over Knives backs up every one of their claims with well documented supporting scientific evidence. After reading this book, it’s apparent the author can’t say the same.

  93. I am not vegetarian, but I must disagree. Vegetables could be grown in building, different crops on every floor, thanks to technologies like hydroponic Gardening. That could free a lot of land space. Also the fact there is veganic agriculture, meaning they dont use the standard animal waste also further makes this less black and grey, as well as the fact that you could use Human manure -yes-. I really liked th emphasis on life needs death, which is obvious, but the other claims, are, still Hypotesis, to my increasing frustration with evidence on many different diets and solutions. Im just gonna eat whatever I want that isnt processed. Period. I dislike most meats. So ill just eat the ones I like, and something of everything.

  94. Hi Mark! Really enjoying and taking in all of your posts and primal write-ups. I have three questions that I hope will be useful to all of your readers (as well as me!)

    Question 1: Would eating eggs as opposed to meat be JUST as healthy as eating meat, if enough is eaten (being a lacto-ovo vegetarian myself)? I eat boatloads of eggs every day with plenty of saturated fat, cholesterol, and protein–yum! Or is meat of higher quality.

    Question 2: Also, have there been long periods of evolution where primitive people lived on primarily egg-based with plants diet, for a very healthy life, equivalent to that of meat-eating populations?

    Question 3: And finally, what do you think of the argument that eating animals is better for the environment as htey give nutrients back to the earth–considering that they are not not dying on the land itself, but are being fed to us, and then we poop out those nutrients into the water system instead of the land? Any thoughts?

    Thanks Mark for all of your help before and the advice that you provide!


  95. Keith’s book is magnificent and life-changing. Regarding your son who is 16 and vegetarian and feels great– watch out! That was me, and now I am 30 and I have pretty serious health problems that were, without a doubt, caused by my 12 years as a vegetarian. I am recovering, but THANK GOODNESS I caught these issues before I had even more serious problems. Even if he feels great in the short term, he could be doing long-term damage. Read the book, and suggest it for him too! At least then he would be making better informed decisions.

  96. Yikes, I missed the boat on this discussion for the better part of 3 months, but screw it… I’ll just add my two cents.

    The ecological arguments on both sides border on silly. The debate is not about whether vegetarian or omnivorous diets are “more sustainable” (whatever that means). Neither is sustainable so long as human population continues to grow exponentially.

    So far, I’ve said nothing revolutionary. In fact, what I said is usually a cop-out heard from people who don’t really want to partake in the discussion, so let me also submit the following: contraception is the key.

    If you want to save the world, you need to be fighting for active contraception (none of that abstinence-only bullshit that doesn’t work).

    As anybody who has ever studied ecology will tell you, in the absence of external intervention, an ecosystem’s population will approach carrying capacity asymptotically. This means that there will always be a a proportion of the population that will be malnourished. Contraception directly addresses this issue, so long as birthrates don’t exceed roughly 2.1 children per couple. The .1 children is there to account for baseline death rates, but it’s an out-of-my-ass guesstimate — the point remains the same.

    If you want sustainable agriculture, you should be in favor of birth control.
    If you want to save Africa, stop sending food and money (which will only increase carrying capacity, if that) and start sending condoms.
    If you want to save the rain forest or your local neck of the woods, you should fight tooth-and-nail for birth control.

    And lastly, you should consider a highly controversial viewpoint that I espouse: Having more than two children is selfish, irresponsible and immoral.

    1. I agree – including the last line. I don’t believe that every person with more than two children *is* (necessarily) selfish, irresponsible or immoral, as most people are ignorant about overpopulation and many are encouraged to have children or keep ones they can’t support for religious reasons. But I do think that if you’re educated about it, you have a responsibility not to worsen the situation.

      Pretty much no optimally nutritious diet for every one of 7 billion people is sustainable. I believe that the healthiest diet and the one with the least impact is a hunter-gatherer diet, but I don’t think the earth can support 7 billion hunter-gatherers. Birth control (condoms, etc.) + free abortion (in a culture that accepts it as sometimes necessary and doesn’t punish or stigmatise those who choose it) are totally necessary, as well as education.

  97. It seems to me as if she’s suggesting that if vegetarians can’t combat ALL of industry (i.e., agricultural, as well), then we might as well not bother even combatting the meat industry, and I disagree. I can only speak for myself, but my veganism is certainly not an exclamation of support for the agricultural industry in lieu of the meat industry, nor is it an expression of any desire for a grain-based agricultural system (in fact, I don’t eat a lot of grain). I am not suffering from “smug elitism,” and am quite aware that the fruits and vegetables I buy still support unethical and unsustainable practices. And I’m not going to accept all the blame for this: most non-vegetarians are doing the same thing. Once I have the time and money, I will also seek produce only from farms that are treating their land as well as possible. For now, however, I am recognizing that my veganism will not conquer all the problems in the world, but will at least send a small message to the meat and dairy industries.

  98. The best rebuttals of both the China Study and Forks Over Knives is at The author there is another Vegan who has realized that this is a bad diet for health and the planet.

  99. the best choice for the environment is for all humans to eat bugs and worms !!

  100. The notion that being a vegetarian is bad for the world is a very narrow minded stupid argument. The author implies that all vegetarians eat a lot of wheat (which is false) or eat a lot of soy (which is false) and that planting fields with wheat is bad for the world.

    IF the latter is true, then eating meat is the worst thing to do as 1 poind of meat requires nearly 10 pounds of food for the animal which mostly consists of grains, the very thing the advocates to be evil. That argument alone makes hers completely invalid. How ignorant can you be to say that eating wheat causes wheatfields which destroy the worlds when eating meat does the exact same thing -and- produces animal waste (too much for the land to handle!) and kills the animal as well.

    Eating meat has long been proven to be way more demaning on the world than a plant diet. And a plant diet is not the same as only eating wheat. Furthermore the author seems to project her own poor unhealthy life on the act of being a vegetarian, her ‘researched’ is based on -1- subject that probably executed the act poorly. I would love to meet with her and have her explain these holes in her book that is being praised like some sort of ‘new truth’ while it is nothing more than here own opinion.

    1. Animals shouldn’t be eating grains, so you can completely forget that part. There is land unsuited to growing crops that is suited to grazing. That is how things were traditionally done, and it makes complete sense. Can’t grow veggies there or digest the grass yourself? Eat the animals and get the nutrients from them. This can be done sustainably, has the least environmental impact and provides the most/best quality nutrients for the least effort. There is absolutely no proof that eating meat is more ‘demaning’ (sic) on the world than a plant diet. The problems are industrial agriculture and farming practices and the population size.

  101. Interesting thread and comments. From a primal perspective, in theory the ideal is to be eating what our bodies evolved to eat, and of course this is all still up for debate as it’s difficult to figure out exactly what that was. There are some good sources that pose a reasonable argument that our evolution has been mostly vegetarian and that we ate meat only occasionally. The lack of carnivorous features like well developed canines, and our colons similarity to our chimpanzee ancestors/cousins for example. For a very long part of our evolution – some 12 million years as primates prior to branching off into the “homo” family of more upright primates in the last 2 million years or so.
    For 12 million years the only flesh we would have eaten would have been insects, eggs, the occasional birds and other quite small prey.
    Certainly steak would not have been on the menu until the last ten thousand years.
    The healthiest I’ve ever been in my life was when I was a vegetarian and the more I read, the more I feel that a primal lifestyle that leans more towards the vegetarian makes more sense evolutionarily so I am gradually cutting back my meat intake to find a level that works for me.

  102. I am curious what vegans here think of the documentary “Food Chains” highlighting the terrible abuse of migrant workers who pick our vegetables. I am grain intolerant yet still trying to go vegan but my body does not respond well to just plants so I do include small amounts of animal protein but when I heard of this documentary, I suddenly reaized the abuse of migrant workers is not limited to factory farming. I can sympathize with not hurting animals and saving our environment. Unfortunately, the science I read supports whatever agenda is out there. Everyone seems to be an expert and what I felt sad about is the fact that so many vegans out there make fun of those of us who are truly grain (gluten) intolerant but are not celiacs because it supports their way of life. Grains are awful for some people. That said, there are so many alternatives for us who want to persue a vegan diet, but I have not yet found a way to feel good and eat plant based. And I am very, very food culture minded.

    Again, what is the opinion of any vegan about the abuse of migrant workers in, for instance, tomato fields. Are any of you planning to seek out fast food or supermarket chains that support fair trade and fair wages for these farm hands who work tirelessy to feed their families and in the mean time allow us to grab all our veggies for a healthy diet?

    Save animals and the land and yet these farm hands are suffering needlessly with abuse and exposure to pesticides, too. That is the other issue I never see addressed. The human factor in all of this.

    I haven’t seen any one vegan address this issue on so many websites. I suppose I could keep looking, but I don’t have all the time in the world.

    1. Just a quick response – trying not to be late for yoga – I’m an ethical vegan only doing the best I can to ensure the least amount of both human and animal suffering – the answer to the migrant work problem and the insects killed with grains problem is to grow your own food, purchase from CSOs and farmers markets, and avoid grains. I tried hard to grow my own food the past two seasons, and I am not much of a farmer, so I supplemented with a biweekly produce box from a local CSO – I try to purchase fair trade when available. I’m far from perfect – very far – but all I can say is I just try my best given the situation of living on a 3rd floor urban dwelling surrounded by cement. My current challenge is getting off grains – the substitutes do not agree well with me – but eating only produce leaves me hungry. I’m not much of a cook either – that’s why the raw vegan thing worked pretty well for me for a while – until I gave up marathon running and started going through menopause – and started working late hours too often – sitting in a chair all day is not healthy – need to get to yoga now, but suffice it to say that most vegans DO care about migrant workers and insects. Many are not interested in the Paleo blog sites so won’t comment here – I listen to everything tho – Ayurvedic, Paleo, SIBO, SCD, and just do my best with the information available. Mark of this blog has warned me years ago of all the deficiencies I will suffer from, and if I ever get tested (want to test but need funds), I will let you know if it comes to pass, but I’m prepared and appreciate the warnings. So far, I feel fine, but I may well have a lot of issues brewing – all tbd.

  103. So let me get this straight, to have a more sustainable food production practices, we should grow edible plants, then feed them to animals, then eat the animals?

    That is ridiculous. Assuming that we continue with industrialized agriculture/meat production, the most efficient food production method (I know, I know, its bad…), It would be much more efficient to cut out the middle man, or so to say, grow crops edible to humans, and eat those crops. What’s that about energy passed through trophic levels…..?

    Though a vegetarian myself, I struggle to find problems with some efficient and sustainable meat sources, like fishing, but any time you raise an animal to eat, you end up feeding it many more calories than it will eventually pass on when consumed.

  104. I remember when I was 4 years old, my mom came out and had me stick my arm in the compost pile. It was January and there was about 6 inches of snow on the top. I was AMAZED when I felt the heat of the compost!!! She told me that when everything dies it gets recycled in the compost. All the bugs and tiny things eat and poop out the dead stuff and it makes “black gold”. I could tell how much the compost meant to my mom by the way she was speaking. The garden was my favorite thing in the world and I loved it as much as I love my family… so when I realized that this “black gold”, this death cycle, this compost was what keeps the garden growing, my little 4 year old brain went on one hell of a trip. I feel as though I lost my ignorance at that moment. I was no longer free to believe that life is forever and totally innocent… I am very excited to read this book.

  105. What a joke. The point of not eating animal products is harm minimisation. If you eat animal products you are doing more harm. What do you think most animals are fed, just perennial plants on regenerative ag land? The reality is we don’t have the space on earth to produce the amount of meat we are now, in the regenerative way you suggest. Even if people are still eating meat, for it to be sustainable it needs to be less than once a week. Animals eat plants too, so if you care about not killing plants and pests and things, eat plants, not animals, they eat and kill plants too. You are minimising harm the most you can by going vegan. You are also avoiding the worst foods for our health. Do some more research, the biggest killers of humans are lifestyle diseases from eating too many animal products.