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.