Customer Review

20 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brave, bold & beautifully written book, 27 May 2011
This review is from: Vegetarian Myth, The (Paperback)
The reviews say everything - people either love this book or hate it - I loved it and I was a vegetarian for 15 years so I can understand why people hate it. I know that there was a time when I would have hated it, but I don't know how I could have countered any of the arguments presented.

The book is beautifully written and beautifully structured. There are 3 arguments presented for being vegetarians/vegans (the line is just drawn in a different place by every one of us dogs/cows/chicken/fish/eggs/dairy/leather shoes/from my garden etc):
1) A moral argument - we must not kill;
2) A political argument - we can only feed the world if we are all vegetarian;
3) A nutritional argument - it is healthier to be vegetarian/vegan.

Keith takes each one in turn and breaks them down with searing logic.
1) There is nothing in this world that we can eat for which nothing has died. She will even tell you how many wolves and bison have died for grain fields and how many rivers have been run dry and all life within them eradicated to irrigate those grain/soy fields. Rabbits, mice, buffalo, fish, birds - before we get into the millions of species in topsoil being trashed as I write.

2) How can the agriculture that has destroyed, and continues to destroy, the planet be a sustainable way to feed the world? Without ruminants performing biological functions of soil, plants soon die as the soil structure is destroyed. Are vegetarians OK that your food is made from oil, not soil? What will feed your food when the fossil fuel runs out? Areas where vegans and real food fans should be having heated agreement are explored - we all abhor factory farming. Ruminants can't digest grains and should not be fed them - ever (the same likely applies to humans however!)

3) The nutritional argument takes many different beliefs and knocks each of these down in turn. As a nutritionist myself, I always knew that there was NO nutritional argument for avoiding meat and fish, let alone eggs and dairy. During my time as a vegetarian I thought I could be healthy enough - I was wrong. Keith was even more wrong, as a vegan, and will suffer the health consequences for the rest of her life. Retinol, B12, vitamin D, K2, calcium, iron, zinc are not optional and they are difficult to get for vegetarians and some are impossible for vegans. As for fat and cholesterol - there are entire books written on those.
In whose interests is it that you eat hydrogenated, deodorized, emulsified, bleached vegetable oils and not butter? Who wants you eating sugary cereal for breakfast and not eggs? Who wants you eating their grains and a ready made sauce and not sticking a free range chop from your known-by-name farmer under the grill?

"What separates me from vegetarians isn't ethics, or commitment. It's information." says Keith. And we can read this book and gain the same level of information. We can still choose to be vegetarian, or vegan, but recognize that it is a personal choice and not a moral high ground from which to attack others, because there are no logical arguments - it's a personal choice. Whatever we choose - let it be an informed choice. No one on earth can like the piercing messages of this book - we have destroyed the planet and there are way too many people to feed (possibly 100 times too many). We should all be as angry as Keith is with those who think it has been OK to trash the planet during their infinitesimally small time as guests here - for their own greed and personal gain.

Love it or hate it - I highly recommend that you read it.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Jul 2011 08:51:46 BDT
The moral argument againsteating meat is "We must not kill"?! What authors hace you read on the subject? One of the most influential philosopher on the ethics of eating meat is Peter Singer and his argument is not against the actual dead of the animals, but instead against the suffering caused to the animals by factory farming. He even argues that if you could raise and kill an animal painlessly, there would be moral objection to eating that animal's meat, from the utilitarian point of view he espouses. The fact that plants recycle the nutrients from dead animals is irrelevant to the moral opposition to eating mean, unless you purposedly kill an animal to grow those plants. The problem is the suffering caused to the animals that we eat, so the "rebuttal" Keith makes is not really a rebuttal.

Agricultural expansion is indeed causing deforestation, and is responsible for the destruction of large proportion of tropical rainforest. But that land is not being used to grow crops for vegetarians. It's being used to grow food for livestock! And the United Nation's report "Livestock's Long Shadow" found that
"livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport." (http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0612sp1.htm) This report details the many environmental problems caused by the livestock industry, including land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Excuse me if I take a UN report more seriously than a book whose references are:

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%)

(taken from the top rated review; you should give it a look, btw)

As for the nutritional argument? I'll take the word of the American Dietetic Association, the United States' largest organization of food and nutrition professionals which states that at all stages of life, a properly planned vegetarian diet is "healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provides health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases". (http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/2003_ADA_position_paper.pdf), based on a comprehensive review of dozens of studies on the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet. Regarding the specific nutrients you mention:

Retinol: this form of vitamin A is produced in the body by the reduction of retinal, which itself is produced from carotenoids, which are found in many vegetables containing yellow, orange and dark green pigments.

Vimtamin B12: yes, vitamin B12 cannot ne obtained from plant sources. It can however be obtained from fortified vegetarian foods, which have added vitamin B12 sinthetized by bacteria or yeast. Therefore, it is perfectly possible to ingest vitamin B12 from non-animal sources.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D needs can be met via the human body's own generation upon sufficient and sensible exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light in sunlight. Products including milk, soy milk and cereal grains may be fortified to provide a good source of Vitamin D. So just as cow milk is very often fortified with calcium and vitamin D, so is soy milk. Besides, mushrooms provide over 2700 IU per serving (approx. 3 oz or 1/2 cup) of vitamin D2, if exposed to just 5 minutes of UV light after being harvested.

Calcium, iron and zinc: Sources of calcium include collard greens, bok choy, kale, and turnip greens. Vegetarian foods rich in iron include black beans, cashews, hempseed, kidney beans, lentils, oatmeal, raisins, black-eyed peas, soybeans, many breakfast cereals, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, tomato juice, tempeh, molasses, thyme, and whole-wheat bread.

Vitamin K2 can be obtained from conversion of vitamin K1, which is found leafy green vegetables such as spinach, swiss chard, and Brassica (e.g. cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts); some fruits such as avocado, kiwifruit and grapes are also high in vitamin K.

Zinc is found in beans, nuts, almonds, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and blackcurrant (http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/SR20/nutrlist/sr20w309.pdf)

In conclusion, to quote another reviewer, is "riddled with bad information, faulty facts and just plain lazy research". So by reading this book, one can only gain the same level of misinformation. We can still choose to be vegetarian, or vegan, and recognize it can be a moral, environmental and/or health related choice, among others. We should not attack others, but we can and should point out their fallacies and ignorance regarding vegetarianism and explain to them the environmental and health benefits of adopting a vegetarian diet. Whatever we choose - let it be a really informed choiced. No one on earth should like the poorly researched and biased messages of this book. We should all be disappointed with Keith for spreading misinformation, faulty facts and apparently succeding in uneducating hundreds or thousands of readers.

Love it or hate it - do not read it!

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Aug 2011 18:20:33 BDT
1. "The problem is the suffering caused to the animals that we eat" the reviewer states "we all abhor factory farming". Buy your meat from producers that pasture all their animals.

2. "[Land is] being used to grow food for livestock" the reviewer states "Ruminants can't digest grains and should not be fed them - ever". Same advise as point 1.

3. "[the FAO] report details the many environmental problems caused by the livestock industry". Much of this report deals with factory farming, see point 2. The report also states "the livestock sector's potential contribution to solving environmental problems is equally large, and major improvements could be achieved at reasonable cost". I do not wish to repeat myself too often.

4. Bad references. Agreed, it is lazy to cite websites, newspapers and books without performing further research to produce better citations. I, too, would laught at anyone who used a book like "The China Study" as a citation.

5. "I'll take the word of the American Dietetic Association". Maybe you should examine the 'Nutrition Evidence Library' for the studies behind the USDA's guidelines. Here is a review "http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/02/04/the-new-usda-dietary-guideline". The lack of valid evidence is available for your scrutiny.

6. B12, d2, minerals and k1 can be obtained from bacteria, fungi and plant sources. However, "poorly planned vegetarian diets can be deficient in vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, iron, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians need to incorporate into their diet foods that provide adequate levels of these vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids".

For some reason vegitarians are not taking their b12 supplements. From the studies that I have just browsed (http://scholar.google.co.uk keywords: vegan b12) b12 deficiency appears to be standard.

An adage that I heard is that the body only converts sunlight into vitamin d, a hormone, when your shadow is shorter than you are. Most people in higher latitudes are deficient in vitamin d because of sunscreens, working indoors, lack of strong sunlight, etc. So take supplements (or mushrooms).

K1, from plants, has only limited conversion into k2 within the body. Studies have shown the benefits of k2(mk4), from animals, but are only now being conducted on k2(mk7), from bacteria. K2(mk4) is rapidly used by the body, whereas, k2(mk7) stays in the blood for days appearing to be ignored. Who knows? Studies will eventually produce the required data.

In conclusion, more and deeper research should have been performed before writing this book. However, even with all of it's mistakes, it does convey the substance of her argument which in my view is valid.

"We can still choose to be vegetarian, or vegan, and recognize it can be a moral, environmental and/or health related choice, among others". Interesting statement. The choice is yours, but, 'recognise', 'moral', 'environmental' and 'health related', I think not.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Nov 2011 06:39:59 GMT
1. Organic or free-range meat does not provide any guarantee of animal welfare. Numerous investigations by animal welfare and animal rights organizations have shown the typical cases of animal abuse found in intensive farming: http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2011/06/27/investigation-organic-farms-just-as-cruel.aspx

2. The reviewer is utterly wrong. I have a whole book on farm animal nutrition, called Basic Animal Nutrition, full of tables detailing the digestibility, gain ratios, thermal increment and numerous other parameters for ruminants. There is a condition in ruminants called "Grain Overload", but that just shows that ruminants are fed grain and can digest grain, just not too much, too fast: http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/21703.htm

3. Well, you know what the easiest way of reducing the livestock sector's environmental damage is? To reduce its size. And how can we do it? By eating less animal products or eliminating them completely from our diet.

4. You didn't see me use that book as a reference (I never even read it). And you don't see it used as a reference in the writings of Peter Singer or in the ADA position paper.

5. How surprising, the usual dish-the-guidelines argument. It's funny though, that vegetarianism critics point to the supposed shortcomings of vegetarian diets in meeting the recommended nutritional requirements and then, when evidence is presented that shows said shortcomings are only imaginary, they start questioning the recommendations themselves. The ADA is independent from the USDA. And I think I trust the ADA more than what seems to be just another one of the so-called "Cholesterol Skeptics".

6. I never disputed that. Many vegetarians can and do have some nutritional deficiencies and yet they still manage to outperform non-vegetarians on longevity, heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, renal disease, metabolic syndrome, dementias such as Alzheimer's disease and other disorders.

In conclusion, there will always be some prejudice against vegetarian and vegan diets, whether because of wrong preconceptions, cultural backlash, misinformation or even the concerted efforts of the meat and dairy industries to tarnish the reputation of animal rights groups, create doubt about the benefits of a vegetarian diet or hide the problems and abuses of their industries.

Nevertheless, numerous observational and experimental studies have demonstrated the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, the moral wrongs of eating meat have been extensively argued and the environmental damaged caused by the livestock sector has been exposed.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Mar 2013 12:43:47 GMT
LogieBaird says:
I shall definitely read it now.

The problem with vegan, is the b12 russian bullet. So many people who follow this do not know the devastating effects on health when b12 from your previous meat eating stores run out. so you measure the level of b12 in your system, how ? the only available good test is u MMA, hardly available , and expensive. see www.b12.com in case it helps anyone.

i think that aka the Mediterranean diet, vegetables , plus oils, red wine is a healthy diet, even better when locally grown.

there are copious b12 studies, real clinical trials, showing in general vegetarians, vegans and old people > 50 yrs lack b12. it is not obvious when it runs out, but devastating. so even if you are an educated vegetarian/vegan re b12, just how do you get the numbers which tell you if your levels are good.

a readily available, not expensive, b12 test, might convince me, and certainly would help a lot of people , who without the numbers, are playing russian roulette with their health

cc

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2014 16:45:29 BDT
Mae says:
The most sensible comments so far. The biggest threat to agriculture is growing food to feed livestock for a very poor return in terms of meat. I have only been vegan for a few years, but since becoming vegan have met many others who have been vegan for over forty years and are in perfect health.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2014 16:50:59 BDT
Mae says:
All it takes is one Vit B capsule a day. How difficult is that in light of the suffering and environmental problems involved in eating animals,
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