Monday, May 4, 2009

The Vegetarian Myth

Soil Isn’t Just Dirt: A Review of The Vegetarian Myth
By Mark Hand

Review of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith (PM Press, 2009).

On the cover of Lierre Keith’s new book, The Vegetarian Myth, there’s a blurb by environmental activist and author Derrick Jensen that says, “This book saved my life.”

I don’t think I’m prepared at this time to make such a bold pronouncement. However, I may change my mind if my health radically deteriorates and I decide to follow the advice on diet and nutrition dispensed by Keith.

After reading the book, though, I am prepared to write this about it: The Vegetarian Myth tackles a set of related topics—the food we eat, how it’s produced, and how it affects us—with a substance and style that I’ve never read anywhere else.

A vegetarian diet, most especially a vegan one, “will damage you. I know,” Keith writes. “Two years into by veganhood, my health failed, and it failed catastrophically. I developed a degenerative joint disease that I will have for the rest of my life. It started that spring as a strange, dull ache deep in a place I didn’t know could have sensation. By the end of the summer, it felt like shrapnel in my spine.”

Keith says her spine now “looks like a sky-diving accident.”

Now that Keith has gone back to eating meat and dairy, how has it changed her life? She says her spine “isn’t coming back” but that eating a diet of grass-fed [my emphasis] animal production “has repaired the damage a bit and made a moderate dent in my pain level.” Her insulin receptors “are also down for the count, but protein and fat keep my blood sugar stable and happy,” she says.

Six weeks into her veganism, Keith says she had her first experience with hypoglycemia. Three months into it, she stopped menstruating. She felt exhausted all the time and had an ever-present cold. Her skin became flaky and itchy. At the age of 24, she developed gastroparesis. She suffered from depression and anxiety.

Keith, now in her mid-40s, says she wasn’t the only one in her circle of friends who developed severe health problems from going vegan. “All the friends of my youth were radical, righteous, intense. Vegetarianism was the obvious path, with veganism the high road alongside it. And those of us who did it long term ended up damaged,” she writes. Read More

While the author of this book still uses the same old tired arguments against modern food production, she also says that vegetarian and vegan diets are dangerous for good health. It basically goes back to the diet that I promote quite heavily and one that’s been encouraged by common sense and doctors alike. We should eat a balanced diet that includes meat and dairy products.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blaming a joint disease on a vegan diet is pretty far fetched. Now that the author is part of the pro-meat, anti-veg weston price foundation, she will obviously go to all lengths to bash veg lifestyles, as they always do in their various literature. She must have been living on soda and french fries if she really experienced all the health problems she's attributing to her dietary choice. My wife and I have been vegetarian for over 15 years now and vegan for the past 6 of those. We are in excellent health.

mimi said...

I guess this opens the way for all the anecdotes from healthy vegetarians and vegans. I've been some variation on vegetarian for 13 years all up, since I was 14 years old, and vegan about 5 years. I'm in great health. I make sure I eat a balanced diet. My best friend is 47, and he has been vegetarian since a teenager, and vegan about 15 years. He looks 37 and is very healthy. I know vegan children, including one healthy young 20 year old who has been vegan from birth. I know many vegans and don't know anyone who has had such bad health they've gone back to eating meat. What's in meat that anyone thinks they need? Everything in meat can be gotten from veg sources - it's not rocket science either, but you can't be silly about it and only eat lettuce and peanuts or something. As a vegan, I have less chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, at least some types of cancer and many other diseases. I am not overweight and find I can eat as much as I like of darned good grub, and remain a good weight. One person's experience doesn't prove every variation of a vegan diet is a bad diet for everyone.

Brad Smith said...

The main thesis of the book is that agriculture is the single biggest environmental threat out there and that it must be stopped, so it seemed odd to me to find a site called "Advocates for Agriculture" writing in praise of it. You're ignoring the whole point of her book (or dismissing it with a single, hand-waving sentence at the end of your review) just so you can repeat an anecdotal and far, far from universal claim about the health detriments of veganism? That's some serious cherry-picking you're doing there.

Troy Hadrick said...

My comments are only in red at the end of the post Brad. I did not write the review. I mentioned that she is still against modern production agriculture, but pointed out her comments on veganism. I'm sorry for the confusion but again, I did not write the review, I just wanted to share it with everyone that reads my blog.

DM Ez said...

wow that is so ridiculas. it's a well known fact to everybody in agriculture that a good deal of the crops go to feed livestock!!! eating so much meat as we do in the west makes the price of grains high, and burdens the environment by consuming more lands and water for crops and animals, not mentioning the amount of fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and poluting sewege from livestock.
in Ethiupia for example, they can manage enough food for the populations just because eating meat is allowed by law only on mondays and fridays.

I think we would have to do the same in the west as well.

anyway, that claim is a lie. u can look for other reasons to eat mainley meat, but as far as environment and socials concern, there should be a reduction.
sadly, today we are living with 6 bilion others, in an injured and sick environment. when we go back to 1 bilion we could indulge on meat as much as we want

DM Ez said...

wow that is so ridiculas. it's a well known fact to everybody in agriculture that a good deal of the crops go to feed livestock!!! eating so much meat as we do in the west makes the price of grains high, and burdens the environment by consuming more lands and water for crops and animals, not mentioning the amount of fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and poluting sewege from livestock.
in Ethiupia for example, they can manage enough food for the populations just because eating meat is allowed by law only on mondays and fridays.

I think we would have to do the same in the west as well.

anyway, that claim is a lie. u can look for other reasons to eat mainley meat, but as far as environment and socials concern, there should be a reduction.
sadly, today we are living with 6 bilion others, in an injured and sick environment. when we go back to 1 bilion we could indulge on meat as much as we want

Jonathan said...

DM Ez,

What claim is a lie?

If anything is ridiculous it is the assumption you've made.

She is not saying eating animal products from grain fed animals is better for the environment. She is saying grain farming is destructive and that using grass fed animal products is better for the environment but that it will not be able to support as many people as there are now.
I listened to an interview on youtube.