Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Vegetarian Myth" - a Book Review

"The Vegetarian Myth", by Lierre Keith, PM Press/Flashpoint, June 2009 is a disturbing, enlightening, frustrating read.  I stumbled on it via a referral on the Nature's Harmony Farm Blog.  I decided to read it as a part of my sustainable farming research.  What I read challenged me on many levels.

First, Ms Keith and I have totally conflicting world views.  I am  male, Christian, heterosesual, right of center and capitalist leaning.  Her positions are always contrasting and often antagonistic towards mine.  Some pages dripped with bitterness.  I found the tone frustrating at times.

"The Vegetarian Myth" describes Ms Keith's journey from Veganism to Omnivorism.  She chronicles and documents her reasoning with great detail and passion.  She rebuts the Political, Moral and Nutritional arguments of vegetarianism (primarily its 'extreme' expression, veganism)  using case studies and scholarly research not often found on the front pages or top shelves of most media outlets.

Keith takes great pains to acknowledge the noble intent and sincerity of the average vegetarian, while attempting to pursuade them that they have been duped by 'Big Agriculture'.  Her arguments are eye opening. Her modus operandi is 'follow the money'.  Sometimes that trail takes the author (and reader) to some pretty frightening places.

I found the section on how commercial farming destroys the soil and environment to be particularly compelling.  But my commitment to sustainable farming and gardening methods may cloud my objectivity.

I was profoundly disturbed by the discussion of soy.  Ms Keith's documentation is there, she's done her homework.  I will continue to research the subject.  If what he says about the risks of soy is even half true, then we have a problem.  Stephen King has never written anything as frightening to me.

"The Vegetarian Myth" is well written and, as mentioned earlier, passionate.  I do not agree with some of her conclusions about the nutritional non value of grains.  But her related arguments about the destructive nature of monocrop agriculture is compelling.

If you read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" you really must read "The Vegetarian Myth".  You don't have to agree with either view, but the open mind demands point, counterpoint.  I am an omnivore.  My world view makes it a non issue for me.  But that same world view drives me to respect the choice to abstain from meat.  But we all must make good choices in what we feed ourselves.  "The Vegetarian Myth" does for Big Agra what the animal rights people have done for factory farming.  Ms Keith has pointed out the abuse, the lies and the all consuming drive for profit.

PETA and their ilk have not caused me stop eating chicken or beef.  They have, however, opened my eyes to abuse and to devise a plan to provide my own meat via humane farming and hunting.  Lierre Keith has not convinced me to stop eating wheat or oats.  But I will learn to grow my own, organically and sustainably.  I will make my choices differently.

After reading "The Vegetarian Myth", I have the strong impression that the author would not like me much.  We are a galaxies apart in the way we see the universe.  But I came away impressed and how many places our different philosophies converged.

Read "The Vegetarian Myth" at your own risk.  But read it.