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Cave painting by the San people depicting an elephant hunt taken in South Africa

A controversial interview with author and ex-vegan Lierre Keith on how a vegetarian diet is not the answer to save our ailing planet.

ON THE ONE HAND, a locally grown steak, from a cow raised on grass and without hormones. On the other hand, a highly-processed soy burger that was grown somewhere far away, with many ingredients I cannot pronounce.

Up until a few weeks ago, the choice would have been easy. As a vegetarian, the soy burger is the ‘moral’ choice – relying on the least amount of animal suffering, the least amount of carbon/water use, and the best way for me to sleep at night.

After reading Lierre Keith’s stunning and personal book “The Vegetarian Myth” now I’m not so sure.

I consider myself a fairly well-informed eater. I’ve read the works of food activists Michael Pollan and Jonathan Safran Foer. I’ve seen Food Inc. and watched Gary Yourofsky’s blistering attack on eating meat.

And yet, in her concise and poetic manifesto, ex-vegan Lierre argues that vegetarians and vegans have been led astray. We’ve been told that we can have a “killing-free” existence, and the path is paved with entirely vegetable diets. But herein lies the myth:

The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.

After reading the book, I had to interview Lierre about it and how we truly come to know our food.

BNT: Why did you feel this book had to be written?

Author Lierre Keith

LIERRE KEITH: The most important reason is that the planet is being destroyed by the social arrangement called civilization. And agriculture is the activity at the base of civilization. Agriculture is, in fact, the most destructive thing that people have done to the planet. Yet the people who should care the most — environmentalists — don’t even identify agriculture as a problem.

And it gets even more bizarre in that it’s those very agricultural foods that are promoted as the way to save the planet. So I wanted to reach the people most impassioned about the state of our planet and try to explain that we have gotten this wrong for a generation. It’s not the values that are wrong, it’s purely informational.

The second reason is that I didn’t want a whole new group of idealistic young people to destroy their health. A vegetarian diet — and especially a vegan diet — does not provide for the long-term maintenance and repair of the human body. So vegetarians are on drawdown of their biological reserves.

Eventually, the rubber hits the road. There is a whole generation of us here who believed in it and tried it until we did permanent damage to our bodies. It was all for nothing. It’s pointless suffering. And I want to stop the young ones from doing the same thing.

BNT: You divide each type of vegetarian/vegan into three camps: the moral, political, and nutritional. Can you (briefly) outline the beliefs of each?

The moral vegetarians believe that it’s possible to eat a diet that includes no animal suffering or animal deaths. The political vegetarians believe that if everyone was a vegetarian, we could feed the world and stop various kinds of environmental destruction. And the nutritional vegetarians think that animal products are the root of all dietary evil and lead to heart disease and cancer.

BNT: I fall into the moral/political vegetarian category – in your book you reveal how this “activism” will not save the world, or produce less animal suffering. Can you explain?

First of all, lifestyle is not politics. The left has completely collapsed into these kinds of lifestyle adjustments, abandoning the concept of organizing to confront power. There are no personal solutions to political problems. Only political movements can confront and dismantle unjust systems of power.

Specifically, agriculture is biotic cleansing. It requires taking over entire living communities and clearing them away, then planting the land for just humans. All of that is a long way of saying “extinction.” None of us can live without a place to live, without habitat. An activity that has destroyed 98% of most animals’ habitat can hardly be claimed to be animal-friendly.

BNT: You write “It’s not killing that’s domination: it’s agriculture.” (p246) and “agriculture is more like a war than anything else…” (p36) Can you explain how agriculture is the true “villain” in our goals toward a more just and sustainable world?

You take a piece of land and you clear every living thing off it–and I mean down to the bacteria. That’s what agriculture is. Richard Manning has this great line, “A wheat field is a clear-cut of the grass forest.” He’s right.

Besides the mass extinction, it’s inherently unsustainable. When you remove the perennial polyculture–the grassland or the forest–the soil is exposed and it dies. It turns to desert ultimately.

Northern Africa once fed the Roman Empire. Iraq was forests so thick that sunlight never touched the ground–no one in their right mind would call it the “Fertile Crescent” now. The dust storms in China are so bad that the soil is literally blowing across the Pacific Ocean and over the continent until it hits the Rocky Mountains, where it’s causing asthma in children in Denver.

The planet has been skinned alive. And the only reason we have not hit complete collapse is because we’ve been eating fossil fuel since 1950. This is not a plan with a future as peak oil is probably behind us and we are on the downside of Hubbert’s curve.

BNT: You write “no one told me that life is only possible through death, that our bodies are a gift from the world, and that our final gift is to feed each other.” (p236) Can you elaborate on this truth, and how we can apply this ethos to our lives and the food we eat?

There is no death-free option. The only options we have are the death that’s a part of the cycle of life and the death that’s destroying the cycle of life. Agriculture is the latter.

If our planet has any hope, it will be because we repair the perennial polycultures–the grasslands, the forests, the wetlands–and take our place once again as participants in those biotic communities, instead of as destroyers of them. That’s what we did for our first four million years–we were participants in living communities. It’s only in the last 10,000 that we’ve become monsters.

BNT: Since your book’s publication in 2009, were you surprised by the reactions from the vegan/vegetarian community?

I was in the vegan world for twenty years, but I did not realize that vegans would stalk, harass, and assault me. I didn’t realize that I was dealing with people who are that cult-like and fundamentalist in their mentality. I can’t speak in public without security now. And they have let me know that they know where I live.

They have, ironically, proved my point about the psychology of veganism better than my words ever could. I don’t give in to bullies, and besides, my planet is at stake. So I’m not going to stop. But there is a very scary psychology running through this community.

BNT: On the other hand, did any unforeseen allies reach out afterward that you didn’t expect?

I get emails every day from ex-vegans, thanking me for saving their lives. That makes it worth it. And I’ve also met farmers who have given up annual monocrops and are restoring their land to prairies and savannahs, in part because of my book. There are birds nesting on those lands that haven’t been seen for over a hundred years. That definitely makes it worth it. I’ll take the hostility of vegans in exchange for a nest of fledglings any day. It’s amazing to think that my work has had that kind of an impact.

BNT: Given the response, is there anything you would have argued differently looking back?

No.

BNT: “In order to save the world we must know it.” (p247) You write that much of the destruction we inflict on the world is a result of our disconnection. How can each of us truly come to know the world?

We have to build relationships with the creatures that make our lives possible and with whom we share this planet. And that’s all of them–the bacteria, the plants, the insects, the birds. Not just the mammals. Everybody else. Animals are only 15% of life.

In a biological sense, this is a planet of bacteria. They are the people doing the basic work of life. They keep the basic cycles going–the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, without which no animals would be here. We need to get profoundly humble before the incredible activities they do that make our lives possible. That humility needs to be the basis of our culture, our religion, our reality.

BNT: You write “If you hear nothing else in this book, hear this: there is no personal solution.” (p264) Also, “the task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as much personal integrity as possible – it’s to dismantle those systems.” (p265) Why do you feel the mainstream emphasizes personal lifestyle choices as the main path to a better future, and why do you believe this path is misleading?

It’s misleading because it’s useless. The mainstream has taken this up because it’s easy. It requires no risk. Direct confrontations with power, on the other hand, require serious courage.

As Frederick Douglass wrote, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Saving this planet will require a serious resistance movement to industrial capitalism and ultimately to civilization.

BNT: You state in your book that you avoid “easy answers” to complex resistance, but you still offer some basic guidelines. One powerful question you offer is to ask “what grows where you live?” Why is this so important?

I offered those guidelines about what to eat because I knew people would want to know. I did not call them resistance, because they’re not resistance.

The question about “What grows where you live?” is important because to answer it you have to know the place that you live. You also have to know what activities and what actors are destroying it. I would hope that from there, people would be moved to defend their homes.

BNT: Finally, as we move into an uncertain future, you state the importance of “inoculating people against future fascism” (p268) Why do you see this as crucially important?

In times of social collapse, desperate people can do very ugly things. Since the book was released, we’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party movement, who have successfully run candidates for office. The public discourse has turned more and more to violence, Gabby Giffords was shot and others killed.

People are getting desperate in this country as the wealthy have destroyed first the working class, then the middle class. All that’s left are the poor, the old, and the sick, and now the republicans are going after Social Security and Medicaid. Rick Perry is running for president, and he is a Dominionist Christian who truly believes that the United States should be a religious theocracy. We need to get active or we will be living under the christian Taliban.

Grab a copy of Lierre Keith’s book ‘The Vegetarian Myth.”

What do you think of Lierre’s argument? Share your thoughts/reactions to Lierre’s argument.

Sustainability Vegetarian

 

About The Author

Ian MacKenzie

Ian MacKenzie is the founder and former editor of Brave New Traveler. He is Head of Video at Matador Network. Ian is also an independent filmmaker, with his first feature (One Week Job) released in 2010. His more recent projects include Sacred Economics and Occupy Love.

  • Dharmabum94115

    A lot of “food for thought” here.  Intuitively, much of what Lierre writes, resonates with me; I found myself nodding in agreement with her as I read.  However we each chose to sustain ourselves, can the world sustain 7+ billion people?  Thank you for this.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      Lierre states that she does not want people to die, but her research suggests the ‘true’ carrying capacity of the earth is much much lower than it currently is… like less than 500 million.    But I do know other researchers that believe otherwise. 

      • http://changemakers.pk Ramla Akhtar

        Ah, thanks for that ‘figure’. 

  • http://www.danielcrump.com Guy Incognito

    This introduces some interesting new ideas into a continuing discussion I have recently been having with my formerly vegan now vegetarian brother. 

    My one immediate disagreement, if you can call it that, with Lierre’s idea is that 7 billion+ humans returning to the way we lived for the past 4 million years is also not sustainable and many many people would die. Personally I don’t care, we deserve it for what we have done to the planet but how many of us are actually going to step up and bite that bullet? It’s unrealistic. Our “civilization” as we know it and quite possibly our entire species has an unknown expiration date. Whether we wipe ourselves out in 100 years, 1000 years or 10,000 years it is inevitable. It might take centuries or even millennia for the planet to erase most of the evidence that humans once lived but life is resilient and the world will go on.

    Now that being said it should not be taken as a license to inflict horrors upon our planet. It is still our duty, as a species of supposedly higher intelligence, to do our best to coexist as best we can with our fellow planet dwellers. It might just be good to realize while we squabble over how to save ourselves that our fate is inevitable that we should be focusing on how to live in a way that does not accelerate this fate while leaving an enduring legacy for our future so that even though our civilization will fail our species might have a chance of living on.

    Just my thoughts.

  • http://www.aviatorsandacamera.com/ Kirsten Alana

    While I don’t deal at the same depths, this is essentially the message I’ve been preaching to friends and family for a long time. Thank you Matador for publishing a piece which is sure to bring some controversy. These things need to be said.

  • Christine Garvin

    I’m glad to see that there is an author out there that coherently outlines what I’ve been fumbling over in talking with vegans and vegetarians ever since I stopped being one several years ago. The breakdown of my body led me to give up veganism, then vegetarianism, and I can see those same nutritional deficiencies manifest in friends and clients that grasp so hard to the ideals of this movement they can see straight (much how I was). Yes, anything taken to extreme becomes cult-like, and people tend to lash out at anything that doesn’t agree with the laws set out by the group, even when it means their life is at stake.

    I know how it is to look at what you’ve been doing specifically FOR the planet and realize it’s actually been more detrimental than helpful. I bought a diesel car back in 2005 in order to run it on biodiesel. Besides the many issues I had with biodiesel in terms of my car (as many, many people face with their diesel cars in the long run if they run it on this fuel), I had a professor who very clearly outlined that biodiesel was not just the oil already used by McDonald’s to run my car, but land all across the US, and rainforests in Brazil were being cleared just to plant corn, soy, and sugar-cane so I could drive my car – and sell this practice to everyone as “sustainable”. Umm, not sustainable when the land can no longer grow anything since we’ve ripped it to shreds. Much less the amount of literal energy that goes into producing these crops, as Keith notes.

    The only thing I don’t agree with Keith on based on this article is about individual change. I DO agree we have to act politically and stand up to those who are taking over. AND, we also need to act individually with our dollars and when and where we spend them, because our dollars also take away power and move it elsewhere, albeit more slowly. I think it has to be a double-headed approach.

    • http://matadornetwork.com/ Carlo Alcos

      Great point about the bio-diesel Christine. The crux of the problem, as I see it, is lifestyle choice. No one wants to give up their lifestyle. They want to consume the same amount of energy and resources, but just have a clearer conscience going about it. Making packaging recyclable isn’t going to help, what’s going to help is not buying it in the first place.

      • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

        “No one wants to give up their lifestyle.”  That’s her main point though – the task for the activist is not to convince people to buy soy burgers, it’s to organize a political group that is dedicated to dismantling the power structures that feed our destructive lifestyles.

        • Bryan_tripp

          Hi Ian,  Great Article.   There is so much to discuss when talking about our current food system.  One thing that irks me is the amount of waste in the current system.  The shear amount of fruits and veggies discarded purely for aesthetic reasons.   So there is a component of food distribution and food equity.   I also don’t think agriculture is the full enemy, it’s industrial scale monocultures as mentioned in the interview.  We must remember agriculture employees huge numbers in every region.     Much research is being done now to lower inputs into agriculture and also how to get away from the monoculture and plant codependent crops that increase resistance to pests and disease.   Technological advances are no longer the answer to the green revolution, the shift must now be biomimicry and imitating and restoring natural systems. 

          I also wanted to comment on biofuels.  First generation biofuels like soy diesel and corn ethanol are definately not a long term solution, however there is move towards second generation fuels that use crop wastes (corn stalks, and cellulosic materials) to produce fuels from waste products.  There will never be enough to fully replace oil, but we’ll need many different technologies to replace such a large energy source.

  • http://matadornetwork.com/ Carlo Alcos

    Thanks for the interview Ian and Lierre for sharing. The book Ishmael is what initially got me thinking about this kind of stuff…about agriculture and the role it’s played in our civilization (Lierre, did you draw on any inspiration from that book?). Daniel Quinn puts forth that there is a natural law that we’re not living in accordance with. And just as if we don’t live in accordance to the law of gravity, we die.

    Like Guy Incognito says below…our civilization is not sustainable. It will come to an end in one way or another. Hopefully our species will survive this and come up with a better way to live, one that is in balance with nature where we’re not destroying and conquering, where we’re not living “above” anything else, but a part of.

    By the way, I don’t think we can “save” the world any more than we can destroy it. I think that’s just our ego thinking that. We simply don’t have the power. Mother Earth will have the last say.

    This sounds like a really interesting book…added to the list!

    • Dharmabum94115

      Only recently did I read the Ismael series, and it’s undertones were everywhere for me in the interview.  Those books remain more than relavent.  

      As for “saving” the world, “destroying” it, ego or not, we are – as we stand – doing a better job of destroying it than saving it.  I believe that something monumental must happen for our species to survive . . . should that not happen, the larger world will survive . . . for a time . . . as all things do.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      “I don’t think we can “save” the world any more than we can destroy it.”   Oh we can destroy it alright… we’re living in the next great extinction.   The earth as an object floating in space will continue to exist, but the tapestry of life on earth as we know it can certainly be wiped out.

      • http://matadornetwork.com/ Carlo Alcos

        Yes, but it will regenerate. None of this is to say, of course, that we can/should continue what we’re doing. I’m just of the opinion that it’s human ego to think we can destroy it…we will be wiped out before that happens and the cycle will continue.

  • http://red-cedar.ca Red Cedar

    Thanks for sharing this interview Ian. As someone who was a fairly hardcore vegetarian/vegan for political reasons – I pretty much have come to the same conclusions as Lierre over the last several years. In watching a number of vegan activists I knew develop serious food-related intolerances after years of high-carb/farmed diets (corn, wheat and soy allergies are very common after years of veg diets), and examining my own personal health needs (my system functions much better with a high protein, low-carb and refined food intake which is much closer to how hunter-gatherer peoples lived) – I wouldn’t go back to any form of vegetarianism.

    And no doubt, agriculture is devastating to the planet, the very root of the civilization that so dominates and destroys the all the world’s creatures today. I’m not sure how we step back from that, but I’m pretty sure that individual choices of consumption will do very little to change what are deeply-rooted problems of power.

    It makes sense that so many of us have gone in that direction as activists over the years – thinking that what we eat is going to make some kind of profound difference is just a way of putting a band-aid on the despair that many of us feel at the decline of the planet and our disconnect from the hunter-gatherer beginnings for which we yearn.

    Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t do anything, or try, or modify to be gentler to the world we live in – but endangering our health and beating ourselves up over what we aren’t doing doesn’t give us the courage to confront power. Exactly the opposite in fact.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      “endangering our health and beating ourselves up over what we aren’t doing doesn’t give us the courage to confront power. ”    Yes!  bang on.

    • TylerFunk

      Hey, great post Red Cedar; thanks for sharing these experiences and observations!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Meijers/671683618 Anne Meijers

      ”I’m pretty sure that individual choices of consumption will do very little to change what are deeply-rooted problems of power.” I disagree on that point,  what we buy is our power, not those that sell it, I think actually that it has a big impact on everything.Not saying i have the solution to everything, but we as a consumer can choose, and that gives us power.

    • Guest

      ‘watching vegan activists develop food related intolerances’ … only vegans who don’t properly educate themselves on their new diet do that. Yes, I’ve met ‘vegans’ who ate only cake, too. 

  • http://twitter.com/ColeenMonroe Coleen Monroe

    I’m a flexitarian! Which is to say that I eat a lot of vegetarian meals, but I’m not down for cutting out animal products completely. I realize that the body needs nutrition to be as clean, thoughtfully-raised, and yummy as possible…and that doesn’t mean only vegetable products. 

    Vegetarianism may not save the world, but I would caution against swinging back the other direction and eating as much meat as possible (and a typical North American diet is just that). Cutting down on meat and insisting on clean, sustainable foods is the key to lasting ecological impact. 

  • Mackenzie Madsen

    I found this article interesting and the author is indeed spot on about the way that industrial agriculture is “destroying” the planet.. but isn’t it silly to say that relying on the oil and meat industries is somehow doing less to “destroy” the planet? The amount of clear cutting that goes on just to have somewhere for cows to stand is astounding! As is the amount of gallons of water it takes to produce a single pound of beef. I’m not preaching vegetarianism, I’m just pointing out that no matter what our eating habits are and how we choose to reap the the materials, we will always be taking from and “destroying” the earth. Hoping that the mother herself will take us out in one swoop when she’s had enough.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      Actually she’s also advocating the dismantling the current oil/meat industries (ex. factory farming) in favour of small scale local polyculture farms – which are the only truly ‘closed’ eco-systems.  According to her, these not only are ‘sustainable’ but they can restore topsoil.    

      Also side note: I notice that many people have this kind of ‘fatalism’ that the earth will take us out at some point – which feels like abdicating our responsibility to the present and future generations.

      • http://red-cedar.ca Red Cedar

        Really, it’s because an apocalyptic perspective lets us off the hook. Much easier to envision than re-imagining how to live on the planet different. And I don’t mean that dismissively to anyone! I am guilty of wishing the same myself.

      • http://matadornetwork.com/ Carlo Alcos

        I don’t see it as fatalism, I see it as realism. I don’t think we as a human race will be wiped out. I just think that our civilization will come to an end. And in its place another will arise. It’s evolution. We tried something and it didn’t work. Next!

        This doesn’t mean that I will do whatever I want and shirk any responsibility. I will continue to live how I think is the best way to live, to love and understand that we are part of the whole and not above it. I think the message worth spreading is love, and it starts inside each and every one of us. This is how we can affect others around us, not by preaching.

  • Vegan

    I almost never argue about vegetarianism or veganism. Also, I try to be impartial. For example, I do believe that veganism is less healthy. It bothers me, but I still do it. Still, I will concede that point. But I have to point out three blatant flaws in Keith’s logic:

    1: Keith blames agriculture for environmental problems, and I agree. But that’s the main idea of environmental vegetarians/vegans. Cows have to eat, too! They eat plants! By going straight to plants instead of fattening up animals and eating them, we use our agriculture more efficiently, thus reducing the amount of agriculture needed. This is a scientific fact: cows, chickens, all animals are less efficient sources of food than plant food. It’s because the animals eat the plant food, and with the food they grow, but they also expend energy throughout their lives. So if you have a problem with agriculture, learn about the grazing industry and you will discover that EVERYTHING we eat is agriculture.

    2: Keith uses an example of eating a locally-raised beef hamburger vs. a processed soy burger. This is a hyperbolic example. Most beef eaters do not eat locally – they eat factory farm meat. That’s where most of our meat industry is. Also, there are plenty of vegans, like myself, who do not eat that soy burger crap. I stick mostly to fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. If you want to call my diet unhealthy, that’s fine, I won’t even try to disagree with you, but at least realize that not all vegans eat EVERY vegan option out there, and not all of them crave artificial alternatives to meat.

    3: I have not read Keith’s book and do not plan to. But according to the article, it seems that Keith does not offer many practical solutions. Sure, she says we need to understand bacteria’s role in our ecosystem. Fine. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike can “understand” that, but that’s not a solution. Also, she blames agriculture. Fine. So do I. We have a human population that is growing out of control. People need to eat. We are going to hit our breaking point, and there is nothing we can do it about it, especially without ACTUAL solutions, instead of just identifying the problem. Almost all critical thinkers have already identified the problem.

    In the end, please base your beliefs on verifiable science, not on the sweeping conclusions that are drawn here. Gracias.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      @fee164d54e2e1a6c1a39b85def4e8586:disqus  
      1: lierre makes a huge point in her book that growing large monocultures relies on using fossil fuels for the fertilizer (in the absence of animal based fertilizer).  therefore it is not possible to grow food without a) having animals or b) using fossil fuels.  which is the better option for the planet?

      2: the example of the soy burger versus locally grown meat was my own, not Lierre’s.  
      3: you are drawing your conclusions based on a short interview meant to condense the major arguments in her book. if you truly wish to learn her perspective, read the book.  

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TEC4M3RUN7EH47UXZISKKHR3Q4 John

        “ therefore it is not possible to grow food without a) having animals or b) using fossil fuels.  which is the better option for the planet?”

        Firstly, I guess you don’t realize there is no way we could have enough grassland to feed all the grass fed cows to make the healthy manure for everything else we grow?  The only way the cows could produce enough manure is if we use the current cow factory system and so that means the  manure will be hormone & antibiotic infested, is that really what you want?

        Secondly, there are more than the 2 choices you give for fertilizers.  ”Green Manure” is organic matter and fertilizer based on a tilled in cover crop.  It would mean using more cover crops and crop rotation and be better for the soil, and yes make the land less productive overall, which could be met by feeding the cows less grains if we eat less cows.  Oh wait, I mean we should eat all the cows we want and pretend it doesn’t matter.

        • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

          I am not knowledgeable enough to answer your rebuttals, which is why I attempt to learn from others. If you could please provide links to your sources, it would be appreciated.    In the meantime, I highly recommend you read Lierre’s entire book. 

    • The Greatest Man

      You need to learn some science yourself.

      1. People can’t digest grass, which is the reason we eat meat in the first place. Feeding people grass is just as awful as feeding cows corn, which incidnetally is one of the primary things that’s messed up about agribusiness.

      2. Straw man. “Plenty” is not the same as “most”. This whole point you raise essentially says that there are proportionally about as many omnivores eating local organic stuff as their are vegans, but when talking about omnivores you say “most do not” where as “plenty of vegans” do. The truth is, most vegans don’t, either. The “hyperbolic” example is one attempting to demonstrate that agriculture can be far less destructive than it is, it’s not even remotely attempting to suggest that it is the current standard.

      3. You need to learn a bit more about how population growth relates to food availability. Humans are just like every other animal in that regard; we don’t have a magic ability to reproduce beyond what food is available. Reforming our agriculture system is exactly the kind of solution we need.

  • Aaron Alexandre

    What an interesting perspective. She shed some light on some very important issues. 

    While I must say she makes some good points against the veggie/vegan movement, rather than react harshly and defensively, maybe we can learn from her perspective and really think about what we are doing and every facet of life that our actions affect. 

    Can being vegetarian be a good thing? 

    Can we make this sustainable? 

    IS a vegetarian diet unhealthy? I would love to see some dedicated research on this topic. Are we just doing vegetarianism/veganism wrong and not getting the variety of fruits and veggies we need, or is meat an actual REQUIREMENT to live? I have heard from someone at an environmental show that some proteins in meat are absolutely necessary to human function, and if that is true perhaps we *should* include some meat in our diet, however as it stands the issue is something that I have seen very little research on.

    IS vegetarianism unsustainable by definition or do we just need to change what we are doing?What comes to mind is the concept of permaculture : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture

    However what I and I think many others disagree with is that it takes a combination of lifestyle change AND political action to change the world.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      She does posit that vegetarianism is NOT sustainable, because in the absence of animal fertilizer, we must use nitrogen (created with fossil fuels).  So while vegetarianism has high ideals – ultimately they are not based in reality and the natural cycle of life.  

      Her argument is we need to abolish large-scale agriculture and factory farms, in favour of smaller scale polyculture farms with respected (but ultimately eaten) animals.

      • Windizzler

        This is simply wrong.  Plants not only can fix nitrogen – they fix all the nitrogen!  How do you think animals get nitrogen?  All they do is eat plants.

    • John

      I’ve never eaten meat in my life. Born and raised vegetarian. 36 years old. Perfect health. Never had any vitamin level issues.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TEC4M3RUN7EH47UXZISKKHR3Q4 John

    While I haven’t read the entire article, I find the argument that we are not responsible for our personal actions and instead should only wait until lots of people organize to do something as a feel good excuse to not be accountable for one’s actions.  By all means organize, but still take responsibility for the resources you personally consume.  That is something you are in direct control of and are personally responsible for, and if extended through your life can actually add up to a substantial amount of resources (and if more people behaved this way as they should, can really add up).

    Her argument is the same as “I’m only one person, so my vote won’t change anything so I won’t vote.” Seriously, it’s the same exact (and incorrect) argument.

    I do believe you have to know what you’re doing if you’re a vegetarian, and especially so if vegan, and the easiest way to be healthy is to eat a little organic grass fed beef (not with every meal).  But keep in mind that cows & other farm animals take in 10 times more calories in food versus what we get from their meat so are very resource intensive.  And in fact a very large percentage of our agriculture (and clean water) go to livestock, as opposed to directly feeding humans.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      While is is essentially saying voting is useless – what we need instead is a culture of actual resistance to take on the big Machine.   She is advocating the exact opposite of apathy.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TEC4M3RUN7EH47UXZISKKHR3Q4 John

        She is promoting complete apathy towards your personal resource usage accountability while waiting for this political movement to fix everything.

        The reason organic food is so popular and in every grocery store is because of a mass movement of people’s personal choice for that.  And the market responds to people’s personal purchasing choices when they start to add up.  This is why organic food is taking off, not some magical political movement we have to wait for and hope is not hijacked by corporate money. Though of course we should try that too, but personal choice is the quicker and more powerful approach and is getting results now, instead of waiting and not doing anything until a political movement has started. If y’all get a movement started, point me to it, in the mean time, we could use your help by taking personal accountability in all the resources you consume instead of pretending it doesn’t matter.

        • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

          You’re still missing the point – her argument is that emphasis on ‘lifestyle changes’ is never going to create the large scale change needed to turn this ship around.   

          Buying organic food relies on much of the same massively destructive agriculture practices, both to grow it and to transport it.  Corporations have hopped on board because they can make a lot of money, not because it challenges their superiority.   Same goes for recycling.  Companies love promoting that their products are recyclable, but it’s a fallacy that it’s “sustainable.”  Recycled products are almost always “down-cycled” until eventually they end up in the landfill or polluting the oceans.

  • Windizzler

    Lierre states that agriculture does terrible damage to the earth’s ecosystems (no argument), but then makes a logical error in linking this with the idea that vegetarianism is harmful, by extension.  The logic seems to be “If you’re vegetarian, you’re eating more vegetable matter; vegetable matter is grown agriculturally.  So, if you stop eating so much vegetable matter, eating more meat instead, then you’re helping the environment.”  

    There’s a glaringly obvious problem with that logic: growing meat is very intensive agriculturally.  It takes several times more vegetable matter to grow a cow, then eat it, than it would take to eat the agricultural products directly.  So by eating meat, you use up more, not less, agricultural resources.  In fact, you use up _much_ more.

    Lierre’s falsely claiming moral high ground (“I’m not eating as much harmful agricultural product – I’m eating meat instead!”) for something he/she wants to do for completely personal/selfish reasons: a perceived need for meat protein, for reasons of health.  I mean, that’s fine – eat meat if you want to.  Maybe you do need animal protein – who knows?  But get off your high horse – it’s pathetic!

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      “If you’re vegetarian, you’re eating more vegetable matter; vegetable matter is grown agriculturally.  So, if you stop eating so much vegetable matter, eating more meat instead, then you’re helping the environment.”  
      Actually, to clarify, her argument is that becoming vegetarian/vegan is NOT the way to a more just and sustainable world.  In fact, it’s a red herring.  She is not saying therefore head down to your local McDonald’s.  She is saying the true target is dismantling large-scale agriculture AND factory farming.  

      • Windizzler

        Her quote:

        “I’ve also met farmers who have given up annual monocrops and are restoring their land to prairies and savannahs, in part because of my book. … I’ll take the hostility of vegans in exchange for a nest of fledglings any day.”

        She refers to a farmer who’s converted farmland into grazing pastures, for growing meat to be eaten.  Right?  The implication is that vegans would have that land continue to be used to grow crops, to eat; she counters the vegans, championing the use of the land for pasture, claiming this as being morally superior (she’s fearlessly countering the hostile vegans, implying moral superiority).

        This is fallacious, because animal protein uses up far more resources, per calorie consumed, than vegetable matter.  Why doesn’t she instead champion the use of the land for non-monoculture, organic agriculture?  That would be better than her non-monoculture pastoralism – in that it would use fewer resources.  But if she did that, she couldn’t self-justify her meat-eating.  She’s trying to pin non-sustainable agricultural practices on vegans.  I’m fairly sure she’s way off-base on this.  I’d bet money that vegans are much more likely to purchase organic produce than non-vegans.  And how many meat-eaters care how the crops were raised which were fed to their meat animals?  I’d say not many, given that I never see free-range meat on offer in my grocery store (but I see plenty of organic produce).

        • The Greatest Man

          “And how many meat-eaters care how the crops were raised which were fed to their meat animals?  I’d say not many, given that I never see free-range meat on offer in my grocery store (but I see plenty of organic produce).”

          First of all, you’re in the wrong grocery store. I live in LA and every grocery store I’ve been in carries free range or organic meat, not to mention the preponderance of farmer’s markets in the middle of the biggest metropolitan area in the USA.

          Secondly, your question is a straw man argument. There aren’t any human carnivores, so there is no population that sits opposite vegans. To divide humanity by “meat-eaters” is silly, since it includes a wide variety of people with varying degrees of concern about the environment, their health, and our relationship to animals – and they all also eat plants. It’s just as silly as asking how many plant-eaters care about how their crops were raised, or how many women, or how many football fans. You’d get roughly the same percentage either way, since the category bears no relevance to the data you seek.

          Finally, being vegan doesn’t give you moral high ground. I’ve met very few vegans who ate plant matter taken directly from a small, local farm with sustainable practices. Most vegans I’ve met eat a bunch of that super-processed fake meat that they buy from a box at the grocery store, as if that product could have possibly come from a non-industrial system.

          I haven’t read the book, but judging from the interview, it seems to me that the point is that what you eat doesn’t really matter anywhere near as much as how you get the food. Diets differ depending on what is edible in your habitat, but we’ve destroyed our habitats such that we’re eating the same, extremely limited diet – which is why vegans and vegetarians struggle to remain healthy.

          • http://www.facebook.com/xenoronex Xenoronex Obibo

            I think some of you might be missing her point.  First off, not all vegetation damages the soil equally.  Monocropping is the example she cites, but similar crop practices even with smaller than necessary rest periods can cause habitat and environmental damage.  Hardy weeds and hay that people won’t eat, but animals will are not only what animals have been eating well before humans evolved to cultivate them, but are also sustainable.  If you eat organic food, it’s not necessarily sustainable.  Even if it is sustainable, that doesn’t mean there’s no environmental impact.  It only means that they properly cycle fields.  An organically grown farm with sustainable practices still probably doesn’t allow for much wildlife to live in it, while a prairie that animals graze off of probably does support quite a bit more.  (That’s not to say everyone should only eat meat, just that sustainable organic still might not be as ‘good’ as you think.)

            The crux is that while animals can eat more ‘agriculture’, they can eat more ‘sustainably’ than we ever can.  Go try eating the same grass that goats and cows eat if you don’t believe me and see how long you last.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500527012 Jennifer Winn

             The problem is agriculture, as a whole. Her point being that merely becoming vegan doesn’t do anything if the vegetables are being produced in ways that deplete habitats.  Check out this Ted talk:
            Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html  THIS is the kind of organization to support if you truly want to help the environment.

        • http://womononajourney.wordpress.com womononajourney

          But the corn and soybeans fed to animals were things they were never meant to eat. They are fed to animals because the U.S. has huge amounts of them, and people who don’t care one wit about animals have started feeding them to all factory farmed animals–including fish.  Animals should never have been fed corn and soybeans; they are not intended for their bodies, and humans are not intended to eat unhealthy, sick animals.

        • http://katecaroline.wordpress.com Kate

          I agree completely; sustainable agriculture is the answer.

          • Bratman

            I’m sure the animals wouldn’t agree with this. That’s right let’s ignore them altogether as usual. It’s NOT our right to eat animals or decide if it’s ethical. They are not our property. Killing is murder when you don’t have to do it for survival.

          • Padma Drago

            Even cows eat bugs! (They love ‘em.)

            According to you, all life is unethical.

            Maybe you should just commit suicide, then, so you will stop killing microbes with every breath you take.

          • Osmancan Aydinoglu

            what about the nervous system? do you have any idea of what we are talking about here?

        • dialogue

          She is not remotely arguing that.  Again, read the book.  She is arguing against industrialized agriculture, and for perennial polycrops.  This is something that needs to be understood.  Perennial polycrops support ecosystems.  Industrialized mono-crop agriculture (whether a cow, or a wheat crop) destroys ecosystems.  The arguement is that perennial polycrops are a part of the life cycle, and that any other way is an unsustainable lie.  You need animals – to eat, stomp, make fertilizer (from manure and carcasses).  She also states clearly that she is not against Vegans attempting to do right, but the assumption that things don’t have to die to create more life is naive.  Veganism will not save the world.  It is naive.  Read the book.  Her arguement is certainly not perfect… but it is far less naive than anything I have read yet.  

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000870348123 Matt Erb

          What an exhausting discussion. If you eat either meat or veggie, raise/grow it yourself or hunt/gather it from the wild, stop shopping at stores, and live off the land. Population is the problem and we could argue these topics back and forth till we are blue in the face, and that is all that would be accomplished, either change your lifestyle for the better of all, but either way neither makes you superior nor will either decrease the population. People need to be fed. Who buys on thing more organic than the other or who does not had nothing to do with it. 

        • Padma Drago

          Even cows eat bugs!
          Vegetarianism is a product of unnatural human conceptualizations.

          • Bratman

            There is a difference between accidently eating a few bugs to intentionally murdering millions of animals every year.

            Just another inane argument from a meat, dairy and egg eater.

            Humans are designed to eat plant based diets, before we invented tools and fire it’s all there was to eat! What else do you think we ate apart from fruit when you can’t cook anything?

            Maybe you should set up an organization for the protection of microbes if you care so much.

          • mulfgang

            “Humans are designed to eat plant based diets, before we invented tools and fire it’s all there was to eat! What else do you think we ate apart from fruit when you can’t cook anything?”

            Gotta correct you there – skeleton finds show that humans (and our ancestors before actually becoming homo sapiens) have always been omnivorous, just as chimpanzees or bonobos still are today – have you ever seen a chimpanzee’s teeth? They eat other monkeys sometimes, they hunt them! Just because the meat isn’t cooked doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. Or have you ever seen a lion roasting his freshly hunted gazelle over a fire?
            And besides the meat there also was stuff like the bone marrow and brain to eat which really gave a boost for humans’ development after the invention of the very very first tools.

          • Osmancan Aydinoglu

            you are a product of the human management conceptualizations.

    • T.C.

      Only person I see on a high horse is you.

    • fatsand

      have you read the book or are you basing what she says on this limited article?

    • TylerFunk

      “Lierre’s falsely claiming moral high ground (“I’m not eating as much
      harmful agricultural product – I’m eating meat instead!”) for something
      he/she wants to do for completely personal/selfish reasons: a perceived
      need for meat protein, for reasons of health.  I mean, that’s fine – eat
      meat if you want to.  Maybe you do need animal protein – who knows?
       But get off your high horse – it’s pathetic!”

      In the first place, people do need animal protein; and it’s really nice that Lierre is trying to help us understand what nutrients our bodies actually need in order to remain healthy. I think that’s important work and I applaud her for it. But Lierre never adopts a holier than thou attitude, not in the nutritional section; not in the ethical or environmental sections either.

      She addresses the ethical and environmental issues from the standpoint that vegeterainaism and veganism is not the answer; she does not say that if we all switch to eating meat this will save us. Lierre says, and I agree, that the solution must be to allow the natural world to recover. Whether we eat vegetables or animals, as long as we aren’t practicing agriculture; is irrelevant from an environmental standpoint; and from an ethical standpoint as well.

      Notice she is not claiming that eating meat is morally righteous or environmentally positive; she claims that allowing the buffalo to return to the prairies is environmentally positive. Again, I agree with her. Whether we as individuals choose to eat the buffalo or the grass is of little environmental consequence. It has health consequences for us as individuals; but consequences for individual lifestyle choices are individual. She is not on a high horse, but simply asking the vegetarian and vegan crowd to dismount from theirs.

      Ethically speaking, she does not even argue that eating animals is more ethically responsible than not eating animals. Instead, Lierre proposes that we accept the sentience of plants as well, and that we recognize that all organisms have an inherent desire to live and capacity to feel pain. Lierre argues intelligently and compassionately that an organisms’ degree of anatomical similarity to humans is not a basis on judging that organisms’ will to live or its capacity to experience pain and suffering.

      And that reminds me of a previous fallacious point you made – which was that it takes more resources to grow a cow than to eat the vegetables directly.

      This is false, because ruminants eat grass; and allowing the prairies to return to their original condition would mean bringing those perennial native grasses back, and bringing the native ruminant populations back as well. It is not at all resource intensive to allow the populations to exist as they did before (or as close as we can get after the immense damage that’s already been done). Also, it’s disturbing that you look at the world and its inhabitants as resources rather than sentient beings to be intered into relationships with. You say:

      “It takes several times more vegetable matter to grow a cow, then eat it, than it would take to eat the agriculture products directly.”

      This is misleading on several levels. The first and most obvious is that cows and other ruminants (grazing animals) are meant to eat grass, not agricultural products; and human beings cannot eat grass directly.

      Ruminants do not naturally eat grains like corn; which is what is being fed to them in all of the studies citing the amount of agricultural products “required” to “grow” cows. In a sustainable, humane world; cows and other ruminants would be permitted to roam free and eat grass as they were intended to. Allowing these animals to eat the grass they were meant to be eating means that calories which were not available for human consumption are made available. Additionally, native perennial grasses are actually stimulated to grow more when they are grazed. In response to being grazed, perennial grasses generally develop a stronger root system and end up growing more grass faster; a little bit like if you shave often the hair in that area will tend to grow thicker and faster than it otherwise would.

      It does not kill the grass to allow animals to graze on it; grazing which does kill the grass is called “overgrazing” and is not sustainable. In nature, predators provide an assurance that grazing will not turn into overgrazing. Lierre never argues that meat eaters are morally superior to vegetarians; just that vegetarians are misguided and need to come down from THEIR high horse and operate on the same level as the rest of us without assuming that they care more about animals than those who do not share their personal dietary choices.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/RWTB4G4RKBKBNPZAWLHSG2PQVQ Clay

        mmm

      • Elanslist

        There isn’t enough room to grow all of this new grass, and to safely graze all of these cows. We did try it, and turned the American Midwest into a dustbowl. Just like the author describes how we destroyed our fertile crescent.

        • Mtfunk

           Actually the dust bowl was the result of the changes in crop-based agriculture, including the introduction of tractors, pesticides and artificial fertilizers, which allowed the natural pre-existing topsoil across the American prairie to be drawn down at an unprecedented rate. This continent was capable of sustaining between tens of millions and hundreds of millions of buffalo prior to the arrival of the monocropping Europeans. You don’t need to “grow” grass, you just need to let the prairie be, allow grazers access (their waste products are all the fertilizer that’s needed to grow native grasses), and allow predators access to the grazers to keep their numbers under control. That is the natural way, and this continent has proven it can host many millions of grazing animals, as it was meant to before our ancestors extirpated all the buffalo.

        • Padma Drago

          Bug, fish, guinea pigs, lizards – these are sustainable animal protein sources which can be grown with minimal impact. (Everybody is talking only about cows.)

          In grassland ecosystems, ruminants are helpful in maintaining the ecosystem, and are therefore not destructive to the environment like everyone says.

          As for suffering: chloroform is cheap. If the animal rights people were not such fundamentalists advocating total abstinence, they might actually help reduce animals’ suffering by promoting the use of chloroform and ethical slaughter instead.

      • joey jo jo

        Its absurd to think that any cow you’ve eaten has been fed grass its whole life, the industry survives on the farmers feeding cows grain in overpopulated dust bowls. It is true that cows etc do not naturally consume corn and grains, but (and now this is the whole point) THE MEAT INDUSTRY IS NOT NATURAL. Of course it would be best to eat only cows that grazed on natural grasses in beautiful meadows all day long, but the fact is they live their entire lives with hundreds of thousands of other cattle, being pumped full of hormones and fed corn gruel in a dust bowl. And this is what the meat industry demands.

        • Mtfunk

           It’s absurd to assume that every cow I’ve ever eaten has been factory farmed. Actually, I have been buying grass-fed beef for years. The meat industry is not natural; but nobody is promoting the meat industry here.

          My meat comes from local, non-industrialized family farmers, where I can meet the owner of the farm and purchase my meat directly from him or her, while I watch his cows graze real grass in the fields behind his or her house.

          Your statement that “it’s absurd to think that any cow you’ve eaten has been fed grass its whole life” is as absurd and ignorant a statement as I’ve ever seen anywhere.

          • Bratman

            Just because you eat grass-fed cows it doesn’t give a halo above your head. You’re still taking a life unnecessary, you are completely psychotic with your addiction to flesh.

          • Padma Drago

            Even cows eat bugs! (and they love ‘em.)

            You are a psychotic fundamentalist with your unnatural addiction to your sense of holy moral superiority.

            If you really believe what you say, please kill yourself today because you are killing microbes with every breath you take.

          • Mandy Leetch

            You get off your high horse. Animals eat animals, including humans. Eating animals may not be right for your lifestyle, but the organic, sustainable, local meat I get through my CSA is a perfect for for mine, and if I owned land, I’d raise my own animals, making myself an even more engaged part of the process. Eating meat isn’t the problem, removing ourselves from the ecological web is the problem! Sustainable, holistic ranching can restore depleted soils and feed humans, who have evolved as omnivores, achieving maximum health when we consume many nutrient dense plants, as well as healthily raised, local animals. The answer is thinking holistically. The enemy is dogma.

  • Nadia Castle

    Regardless of your diet its ridiculous to think that what you eat can in anyway ‘save the planet’.  Im a vegetarian because I know that its industrialy efficient to harvest crops rather than raise livestock. Never for a moment have I belived that it will ‘save the world’. Any vegetarian or vegan who belives otherwise is only fooling themselves. The argument goes two ways tho, any meat eater who thinks that their simply doing what nature intended might want to pause and relise that the cow is a completly man made and enginered species. Cows cannot survive without humans and modern day pigs, chickens, ducks etc have been selectively bread beyond anything that naturaly evolves.

    The ridiculous thought that ‘We have to build relationships with the creatures that make our lives possible and with whom we share this planet.’ is nothing short of ignorant. Species evolve and prosper by exploting the natural world arround them. Im not advocating the dumping of toxic waste or deliberatly sawing down the rainforests, part of the evolution is knowing how to restrain from over harvesting, but dont forget that the moment plants evolved they killed off most life on earth (mostly bacteria at the time) by poluting the atmospehere with oxygen.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      The title of the piece was an editorial choice and not that of the author’s.  But it does reflect the idealism felt by many who attempt to alter their diet to incur less impact on the web of life (and the planet). 

  • Jessica

    Great interview, will definitely be buying her book!  

  • http://euphonick.com/ Nick Rowlands

    Fascinating article, and great conversation – thanks! This line particularly resonated with me: “There is no death-free option. The only options we have are the death that’s a part of the cycle of life and the death that’s destroying the cycle of life.”

    As I see it, the issue seems to boil down to eating/living ‘naturally’. But what does that mean? Is not everything ‘natural’ when looked at from a certain viewpoint? What is uncontroversial is that we need to live ‘within our means’ – such that the pressures we exert on the biosphere do not exceed its ability to cope (indefinitely). This is clearly not the case for our current mode of existence. 

    But leaving aside other human considerations – social, spiritual, emotional – how we do this is irrelevant. We could revert to more ‘natural’ methods of food production that do not involve industrial agriculture, though – in my limited understanding – this would involve a dramatic decrease in the carrying capacity of the Earth. At the other end of the spectrum, we could evolve technology to the point where we no longer pretend to grow food in an organic manner, but can manufacture it entirely synthetically – enough for the needs of a growing population, and with less stress on our systems than the current intensive agriculture we rely on.

    Seems to me that the latter type of approach is the one that avoids a massive population crash. I was resistant to the “technology will solve everything” approach for a long time  - and I still don’t believe it can solve EVERYTHING (big word, that) –  but we have to recognise that as a species we face huge problems, and that a dramatic enough shift in our behaviour to solve them seems unlikely. (Unless you believe in 2012 as a shift in global consciousness, but that’s a whole different kettle of worms ;) ) We now evolve through the proxy of technology, and we need to marry technological advance with a sustainable and responsible approach to our place/role on this planet, not hark back to ‘how things used to be’. What is ‘natural’ is also evolving. 

    (And yeah, I’m aware that I’ve gone off at a bit of a tangent to the main article, and that I’m offering no constructive solutions. These are just some observations.)

  • http://www.greenygrey.co.uk Greenygrey

    Thanks Ian, nice article.  I’ve been a vegetarian for eight years and am feeling very healthy on it; healthier than before.  I just had an over40s health check and was scored at the lowest risk of heart conditions etc possible. 

    Along with a healthier lifestyle, I’ve completed my first three  running marathons on it, while losing asthma and lessening mood swings (bipolarity?).

    From what I know, I think I’d be healthier adding some fish to my diet (omega-3 etc), but have resisted up to now, trying to get them from veggie sources that might not be as good.

    There are loads of top sportspeople and intellectuals that are vegetarians, including legendary bodybuilder, Al Beckles; international marathon runner, Sally Eastall; and  three time World Memory Champion, Andi Bell.

    The Shaolin monks don’t seem to do too badly on it either!

    I think it’s about getting the nutrition right, and not about meat v vegetarian, although I’m no expert, and different bodies have different requirements; some might need some fish or meat?

    I don’t know if I’m helping the world, but think it probably is better overall from what I know, and especially with the rise of the ‘dairy super-farms’ etc.  

    Of course, there might be some cases where it does not work out like that, such as a local organic free-range meat might be better for the planet than an imported veg, but overall, it seems to make environmental sense that we eat food rather than feeding loads of it to animals and then eating the little meat that’s produced from it.

  • KarinMarijke

    I haven’t read the book and I am not anti-meat eating or anti-vegetarian (vegan), but I would like to point out this:

    I have travelled in Brazil extensively, especially in west and central Brazil. The agriculture is 
    simply overwhelming humongous.

    A large part of Mato Grosso and surrounding states have been deforested for agriculture. Cultivation of soya, cotton and corn. For one reason alone: largely to feed cows that are slaughtered mainly for the European market. Imagine what will happen when China starts eating meat on a larger scale. A Brazilian farmer has thousands and thousands of cows, grazing part of the year (which also causes of lots of Amazon deforestation in, among others, the state of Para). Since the soil is not rich enough the cows are additionally fed with soya, corn and cotton. Part of Brazil’s growing economy is our increasing ‘need’ for meat. The Amazon and Cerrado are being cut down fast because of this.

    The solution lies not in being totally dependent on meat, nor in being a vegan. Both are extremes. Extremes are never solutions. Eat moderately. Eat what your body needs. Stop poisoning with too much meat, too much food of whatever source.

    The solution lies not in just battling governments. It neither lies totally in personal lifestyle. Both need to be addressed. I can’t change a government and  I applaud those who stand up and critically oppose governments and fight . Instead of waiting for governments to change I choose a healthy lifestyle myself.

    If we would all do that, where would that bring us? Because “all” implies also the human beings that make up our governments.

    • Amanda

      I am brazilian. And I can say – 62% of the amazon rainforest deforestation is due to pastures for grqwing “livestock”. That doesn’t include the lands that are used for agriculture – solely to feed that same livestock.

    • Jade

      Lately all I see on social media are video’s and discussions on – over fishing, over agriculture use, inhumane animal food treatment. All these things are correct and sad.
      But when are government/people going to start talking about the fact that the world can not support so many PEOPLE!!!
      That is the only real issue that nobody wants to comprehend!

  • PJ

    Great interview, Ian…

    I’ve gotta say that after reading the article and the comments, it seems as if people just glazed over the title of the article and started commenting. Read the book with an open mind and it’ll become more clear to those commenting, even if you choose to continue as a vegetarian.I just finished reading this book tonight, and as a reformed vegetarian, I can say that it’s hardly the book I envisioned it would be when I began reading it.  Keith’s book is both haunting and devastating. It leaves us with the realities of not only our modern diet, but an indictment on the food system as a whole with our global village as the victim of our parasitical monocrops.I live in the heart of the  ”corn belt” in Iowa’s capital city. There is not one job in this metro area of 500,000 people that is resistant to Keith’s call to action to destroy agriculture as we understand it.  That said, what she describes absolutely must happen if we are to survive as a species.  

  • Sean

    So, she is saying what most farmers have been saying for a long time. 

    • http://www.greenygrey.co.uk Greenygrey

      The same farmers who are trying to kill off any wildlife that come between them and expansion?

  • http://twitter.com/paulryankatz Paul Katz

    Lierre makes a very interesting argument, but it strikes me that one thing missing–at least from the interview–is a discussion of what an end to industrial agriculture would mean for the world’s poor. As it is, the world can barely meet its collective nutritional demands. I’m not going to claim that industrial agriculture isn’t hugely problematic and potentially devastating to the world, but it is a way to produce large quantities of food for an awful lot less money than, say, raising grass-fed beef. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work to develop more sustainable ways of raising food–and it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t eat meat–but I’d want to hear more about how resource-poor populations figure into this, as Lierre’s position strikes Western middle-class me as a Western middle-class sort of critique.

    • Susan Hawthorne

      If you want more on this, read my book Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation and Bio/diversity (2002, Spinifex Press). The core of my argument is not anti farmer, indeed I come from a farming background, but rather a critique of global capital and how that is distorting everything we do. I include research on farmers in Bangladesh who are saving seeds against Monsanto. these are the ideas that need to be spread. Poor farmers, many of them women, are already engaged in this activism. The agribusiness model which started in the USA and has gone global, is the big destroyer here. As is the idea that GM food will solve world hunger. And yes, it is agribusiness who is selling that idea.

    • viva6000

      She does address your well-made points in her other books, notably Deep Green Resistence. This book and the points made therein are really part of a much. much larger discussion about power and sustainability that includes discussions of race, sex, specism, and class. She very elegantly ties all these problems together, in my view.

  • Wilson

    Whew.  She’s committed a lot of classic fallacies in this interview.  I have not read the book, though I plan to; especially in light of a book like _The China Study_, with lots of empirical data on longevity linked to veg diets (that’s for the “nutrition” kind of vegetarian).  But as far as her interview is concerned, here are a couple:

    1) “And the nutritional vegetarians think that animal products are the root
    of all dietary evil and lead to heart disease and cancer.”  Straw Man……  A nutritional vegetarian would most likely concede that a meat-based diet that includes lean meat that is not fried could be as healthy (more healthy? ) as the veg diet.  You can have healthy omnivores and healthy herbivores. 

    2) “The psychology of veganism….”  I know plenty of vegans who are not fanatics, and apparently there are plenty who are.  Just as there are religious fanatics, and those who reject that in favor of the spiritual aspect (belief in a loving God, you know those folks).  So, I just have to think that she’s making an unwarranted generalization when she claims there is a “psychology” of veganism.   All vegans think this way?  Most?  Give me data on attitudes of vegans toward meat-eaters.  Otherwise, her experience is just an anecdote.

    3) There’s the moral (call it theoretical, if you will) side of this and then the practical side.  A vegetarian/vegan who adopts the diet does so, typically, on the basis that factory farming is cruel toward sentient animals.  It’s practically impossible to reject this claim: you’d have to be in denial that suffering is going on, or you’d have to think that animal suffering is justified.  So ideally, these folks would want AT LEAST the best possible conditions to that end, i.e., the least amount of suffering possible. 

    But the “practical” side would be a matter of accurate information.  Lierre is suggesting that the community of vegheads has been mislead by false data (does she have the right info?).  I think anyone who has concerns with respect to moral, political, and nutritional issues surrounding animal welfare and veggie diets would have to concede there are considerations beyond the scope of the ideally moral world…… What is the most economical, most ethical/humane, most healthy, least environmentally damaging way to structure agribusiness?……Personally, I have NO idea.  But I’d like to know.  And I would hope Lierre would enlighten us.  I’ll have to read the book to find out.  This interview doesn’t really give me any reasons to form a new worldview.   I’m not convinced yet.

  • Rayoflight

    arrrrrr i hate this shit but it s just a sign of the times!

  • Sunshinedreamer07

    As a biologist and activist I’ve encountered tons of these overly idealistic people who’s opinions swing from one extreme to the other. Young and wide-eyed they jump on the vegan bandwagon because of it’s promises of Utopia. But they don’t educate themselves at all, so they eat a diet of processed soy with little to no actual vegetable content. Years later, angry and malnourished, they learn something that makes them doubt the sacrifice they have been so proudly making. Suddenly their world is crashing down, and the vegan diet becomes the root of all evil.
    Yes, I have seen this time and time again. But unfortunately these days anyone can get a book published.
    There is a middle way! A whole food, plant-based diet filled with locally grown, organic vegetables. It’s true that in a perfect world people would eat small amounts of sustainably grown meat. However, in this world, where people think giving up meat 1 day a week is a big deal, and carbon levels in the atmosphere are soaring to nearly 400ppm, some drastic changes need to be made.
    And I mean realistic changes. Not, let’s return to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle changes.

  • Stella

    Growing crops to feed farmed animals is extremely harmful to the earth. It takes far more intensive  and destructive agriculture to feed and house animals for food than to grow vegetables for food.  The UN has done studies and made reports advocating a vegetarian diet to save our planet from destruction. Yes, human civilization in general is very destructive to the planet, but letting fields go wild is not going to return the earth to a time when everyone hunted and gathered.  There is simply not enough arable land to provide habitat to enough animals to meet projected meat demands if the world’s population continues to eat a meat laden diet.  

    Perhaps this article has not clearly captured Keith’s arguments. I think there is more to what she has to say than just, it’s ok to eat meat and not bother being vegetarian, which seems to be what people are rightly protesting.  There needs to be a radical shift in our perception of animals and all life on earth in order for us all to survive. However, until that shift has occurred, and there are other moral and ethical choices, it makes sense to practice a vegetarian diet.  The more people who respect the animals and earth, the more likely such a radical shift in perception will happen. 

    If people take away from her book that’s it’s ok to go to the store and buy their plastic wrapped, mass-produced, farmed meat and feel good about being part of that process, I think they are missing her point entirely. The fact of the matter is almost all of our meat currently falls into that category. Even if one eats organically grown, “ethical” meat, it still takes a lot more agricultural energy than a vegetarian diet. I also don’t think it’s practical or completely ethical for everyone to eat wild meat. Insects may offer somewhat more morally acceptable “animal source” protein, but I don’t think people are going to be keen to make that switch too soon. So, it is irresponsible of the author to sing the virtues of meat eating when she is saying that if the world was a different place, it wouldn’t be a problem.  Unfortunately, the world is what it is right now, and it needs to change dramatically.  The best way to achieve the needed changes would seem to be vegetarianism/veganism.

    Regarding the health matters, I have yet to find any reputable studies showing that meat is needed to maintain long term health and have seen many other studies showing the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets.

    I think the huge back lash of protest against this book is the fact that it discourages vegetarianism which is absolutely needed right now in order to bring about the respect and changes desired for the world. 

    • TylerFunk

      Hey Stella,

      Thanks for sharing your views. You said a few things which I’d like to share a different perspective on.

      “Growing crops to feed farmed animals is extremely harmful to the earth. It takes far more intensive  and destructive agriculture to feed and
      house animals for food than to grow vegetables for food.”

      I think this is too simplistic a generalization, in several ways. First, this ignores that the book is arguing against agriculture – in my understanding after having read the book, Lierre argues in favor of perennial polycultures, which include animals. Specifically, the book argues for the native praries to be returned to their original states or as close as possible; with the buffalo being allowed to return to the praries, and the native ecosystems the globe over to be restored to what can be recovered of their original states. This would not require harming the earth to grow crops to feed animals – agriculture; both plant and animal, is harmful. The antidote is to allow nature to function in the way it was meant to.

      “The UN has
      done studies and made reports advocating a vegetarian diet to save our
      planet from destruction. Yes, human civilization in general is very
      destructive to the planet, but letting fields go wild is not going to
      return the earth to a time when everyone hunted and gathered.  There is
      simply not enough arable land to provide habitat to enough animals to
      meet projected meat demands if the world’s population continues to eat a
      meat laden diet.”

      I think the solution to the problem that the earth no longer has enough land to feed its population sustainably and nutritiously are twofold; first – to stop, not reduce or manage, but to stop the destruction of the biosphere and to allow to recovery of global ecosystems to the fullest extent possible. This means re-learning how to live in balance with our own local ecosystems, which requires a healthy functioning ecosystem; and secondly we need to curtail birth rates not by forced sterilization as has sometimes been done by racist and genocidal regimes in the past – but by educating people on birth control methods, educating women in the third world and elsewhere where they don’t yet have access so that they can find and read the information they need to have in order to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, and dismantling the oppressive systems of patriarchy, industrialism and capitalism which produce such skyrocketing birth rates amongst a population already too large for the planet it lives on. We can address the population problem humanely, but we cannot just ignore the problem and allow world population to continue to grow exponentially, or no starvation diet is going to save us.
       

      “Perhaps this article has not clearly captured
      Keith’s arguments. I think there is more to what she has to say than
      just, it’s ok to eat meat and not bother being vegetarian, which seems
      to be what people are rightly protesting.  There needs to be a radical
      shift in our perception of animals and all life on earth in order for us
      all to survive. However, until that shift has occurred, and there are
      other moral and ethical choices, it makes sense to practice a vegetarian
      diet.  The more people who respect the animals and earth, the more
      likely such a radical shift in perception will happen.”

      This article has clearly captured some of Lierre’s ideas, but it is after all only an article. The book does present a radical shift in perspective – that agriculture itself is harmful and should be abandoned (that includes growing crops in order to feed them to farmed animals). The radical shift you say we must wait for is what is being presented in the book, but you can only uncover it by taking the time to read the book. The book asks us to strive for the needed radical shift, rather than waiting for it; and the book clearly shows that “that shift has occurred and there are other moral and ethical choices;” and it makes very clear why it is actually nutritionally, environmentally and morally counterproductive to practice an agriculture-reliant vegetarian diet.

      “If people
      take away from her book that’s it’s ok to go to the store and buy their
      plastic wrapped, mass-produced, farmed meat and feel good about being
      part of that process, I think they are missing her point entirely.”

      I agree, but you seem to keep assuming that her ideas are not well-supported, when you clearly have not read her book; like in the next sentence of your post where you say:

      “The
      fact of the matter is almost all of our meat currently falls into that
      category. Even if one eats organically grown, “ethical” meat, it still
      takes a lot more agricultural energy than a vegetarian diet.”

      But in my understanding the book argues for grass fed, pastured, free range, and ultimately bringing back wild meat on fully (or as close as possible) regenerated native ecosystems. “The fact of the matter” it is very clear that you haven’t read the book, as the book makes clear the types of meat which are “ethical” and why, and meat which is merely “organically grown” does not even come close to qualifying as “ethically raised” in the author’s perspective. Lierre states clearly that ruminants (not necessarily cattle) must be allowed to eat native grasses, which does not kill the grass but in fact makes the grass stronger. This does not require agriculture; it requires allowing nature to recover from the vicious onslaught of industrialism and agriculture which have reduced the total amount of “arable” (by which I imagine you meant fertile) ground while causing an explosion in world human population while simultaneously causing the greatest mass extinction in the history of the planet.

      “I also
      don’t think it’s practical or completely ethical for everyone to eat
      wild meat. Insects may offer somewhat more morally acceptable “animal
      source” protein, but I don’t think people are going to be keen to make
      that switch too soon. So, it is irresponsible of the author to sing the
      virtues of meat eating when she is saying that if the world was a
      different place, it wouldn’t be a problem.  Unfortunately, the world is
      what it is right now, and it needs to change dramatically.  The best way
      to achieve the needed changes would seem to be vegetarianism/veganism.”

      No, it is irresponsible to assume that you understand what the author of the book has to say in her book without reading the book, and it is irresponsible to assume that just because people aren’t going to be “keen” on making a switch to making a necessary change means that someone arguing for the necessary change is irresponsible. The best way to achieve the needed changes would not seem to be vegetarianism or veganism, and the reasons for this can be found in the pages of Lierre’s book, which you really should read before criticizing Lierre’s vision which she has been kind enough to share and you haven’t been kind enough to take into consideration before criticizing it.

      “Regarding
      the health matters, I have yet to find any reputable studies showing
      that meat is needed to maintain long term health and have seen many
      other studies showing the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets.”

      Oh, I think I can help you out there as well. In Lierre’s book, should you ever care to read it, you will find plenty of studies referenced in the bibliography. You can also visit the Weston A. Price Foundation, they have tons of information about the health problems arising from grain and carbohydrate-based diets, as well as lots of information about the essential role of animal fats in nutrition.

  • Ashley-Marie

    While this does offer insight into an alternative perspective on our disregard of the planet’s resources, at best Keith’s arguments (at least in this article, as I haven’t read the book) are fallacious. See much of the community’s comments below, as many of them go into much better detail than I could. At worst, she is misinforming the younger generation that she hopes to help by providing an extreme viewpoint. 

    I agree that our level of agriculture plays a large role in global deforestation, but with (over) population of 7 billion, a worldwide return to hunting/gathering is not only impractical but ineffective. While a fair amount of our agricultural industry goes towards produce for our consumption, an even larger amount is for feeding animals we intend to eat. For example, the “slash and burn” tactics used to clear swaths of the Amazon rainforest on a massive commercial scale are not only increasing the scope of deforestation. These forests are being cleared not to feed us with the next round of plant superfoods, but to raise corn and other monocrops to feed animals we eat (mostly cows in this particular example). It’s surprising how much this one example actually makes a huge impact on the planet’s resources and sustainability, but it is one of many that prove the agriculture industry isn’t only for providing produce for people and that our current “factory agriculture” and “factory farming” are not great solutions for the planet’s well being.
    Regarding the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as being unhealthy and causing permanent damage to our bodies — yet another extreme and unsupported point of view. Anyone, vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous who makes uninformed decisions about what they eat will cause permanent damage to their bodies. The unfortunate trap that some uninformed vegetarians and vegans encounter is that over-consumption of soy products causes thyroid disorders. In the same regard, omnivores that eat large quantities of meat may have a higher tendency for cholesterol problems or heart disease. Touting one way of eating as an evil is creating unnecessary and incorrect labels that will confuse many rather than help them. (As a disclaimer, I am not explicitly vegetarian. I choose to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but I do eat meat and other animal products on occasion with a focus on unprocessed foods and having a variety of different foods. That’s what I strive for at least…)

    Lastly, on her point that your individual actions cannot make a political difference, it’s unfortunately perpetuating our generation’s general apathy of political involvement and public discourse. Marketers do try their best to convince you to buy and consume their products, but as an individual and consumer, your spending habits and choices make a huge difference in terms of changing the food landscape. (See Food Inc.) How else did you think we ended up with organic, free-range meat available in most grocery stores? How about the growing availability of gluten-free or lactose-free alternatives? We as consumers affect the market just as much as the people who produce and sell our food. To be blasé about that is to be misinformed.

    • http://ianmack.com/ Ian MacKenzie

      Thanks for adding your comments – though I highly recommend you read the entire book.  Lierre addresses much of your criticisms in detail in the book. 

      • Ashley-Marie

        I think I may have to just out of curiosity. I want to see how her facts stack up

  • http://www.facebook.com/cadelbovo Cory Delbovo

    It seems that local, permaculture based, fruit, nut, and leafy green vegetable-producing land solves all issues about damaging and unsustainable food production.

    A vast reduction in affluent lifestyles would account for an appropriate reduction in fossil fuels and toxin usage.

    A sufficient concerted mass-movement would affect change, but so will many small communities working toward these goals.

  • JaneM

    “A vegetarian diet — and especially a vegan diet — does not provide for the long-term maintenance and repair of the human body.” 

    This is just an outright lie, and therefore, in my mind, casts a huge shadow of doubt over the rest of what she has to say.

  • Lightning

    Unfair argument to pit the best meat eating situation; local grass fed beef versus the worst vegetarian position; heavily processed soy burger. One should at least compare apples to apples. Best meat eating position to best vegan position or average meat eating position to average vegan position. Clearly if we give a fair comparison a Vegan diet will kill less animals, cause less damage to the environment, use less resources, cause less pain and suffering etc. Also to say that a Vegan cannot provide enough nutrients is ridiculous. See my website: http://www.plantathlete.com Professional Fighter

  • PWT Harbal Products

    its great article

  • PWT Health Tips

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  • PWT Sports Racing News

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  • Conadee

    I just wanted to chime in and point out that Gary Yourofsky is awful! I have been a happy, healthy, vegan for many years and feel that he is doing more damage to veganism than help. I hope that people do not make assumptions about vegans due to his lectures. Thank you:)

  • Glittergurl9868

    I’m curious and hope someone who’s read this book can give me an answer…What is the author’s stance on animal cruelty and abuse?  Is this something that is addressed in her book?

  • Mariyamu V

    What suggestions does she have for overcoming our current state of civilization?
    Also how are vegan diets not good in the long run yet many claim they will help us live longer?
    How about over population?The earths population can not be fed on wild food.The whole point of agriculture is that we need lots of one kind of plant.
    I predict this may happen in the future when a large part of the world population no longer exists and I hope I build up enough Karma to be there. 

  • theNutritionist

    ‘…This book is so full of inaccuracies it is downright dangerous. Lierre claims you cannot get Vitam E from plants, only animals. What kind of animal is wheat germ then? Lierre says we have no stomach bacteria…wrong again! As for the agriculture nonsense, it is widely accepted that growing grain to feed the animals to then kill and eat the animals is the most inefficient method of food production. Why not simply grow the grain and eat it? As a vegetarian of more than 40-years, now in my sixties, I have no ailments, take  no medication and weigh exactly the same as I did when I was twenty. I’m pleased to say I didn’t have to pay to read this book, otherwise I would want my money back. It is pure fiction and dangerous to anyone who follows Lierre’s advice to live on offal, the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal.’

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Meijers/671683618 Anne Meijers

      Well said !  And what about all those vegan top athletes, they don’t seem unhealthy to me !

    • Bratman

      Here is some more sources of Vitamin E

      açaí, alfalfa sprouts, almonds, apples, asparagus, avocados, barley, blackberries, broccoli, brown rice, cacao/chocolate, carrots, cherries, chlorella, corn, dandelion greens, dulse, flax (oil/seeds), fruit (all), grains (all), green vegetables (leafy), hemp (milk/oil/powder/seeds), kelp, leeks, nuts, oats, olive oil, oranges, parsley, parsnips, peanuts, quinoa, seeds (all), spinach, spirulina, sprouts (all), strawberries, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, tomato, vegetable oils, wheatgerm and wheatgrass (Genuine cacao/chocolate is naturally vegan. It’s a bean.)

      Lierre is a meat eating addict who tries to justify his habit. Trying to make a quick “book.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Meijers/671683618 Anne Meijers

    There is the discussion that ‘you might just as well eat meat’ but the thing is, I can’t. I honestly can’t consume it anymore, I also can’t see it as meat anymore but see the cow and pigs as beautiful creatures. So even if it was better or just as bad, which I think you can discuss about for ever, I couldn’t bare it, really would make me sick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anne-Meijers/671683618 Anne Meijers

    And where is the solution for that ? Nowhere I think ! We overpopulated the planet and now we are screwed, thats how I see it.

  • Malvinhadruidica

    Written to provoke controversy and sell copies, rather than vision a future. Keith compares monocultural industrial agriculture to grass pasture farming and finds it wanting. However, she entirely fails to address the fact that ‘edible forest garden’ agriculture (whether vegan, vegetarian or omnivore) is more efficient and environmentally sound than either of the above. A forest is a vertical farm.

     

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RWTB4G4RKBKBNPZAWLHSG2PQVQ Clay

    disagree.

  • Pastaface

    1. we refer to the planet in terms of us “saving it” or killing it”  it’s absurdly arrogant. Whatever we do, the planet will keep on turning. With or without us.

    2. “non harmful” vegetarianism is a conceit. in the industrial nature of agriculture today, animals large and small must be killed (controlled) on an industrial scale to protect crops.

    too many people is the issue. My belief is nature will cut us down to size. and our sense of self-importance with it.

    • Hit

      The planet is finite. We can indeed kill it. I’d rather err on the side of saving it. If you don’t buy that, then stop flushing your toilet, find out what happens when you continually stuff waste into a finite amount of space.

  • Elanslist

    She makes the point that one person doing good is useless, which means there is no good reason to be a good person. This logic, if followed, sucks.

  • ranter

    Talk
    talk talk. Humans. Forever denying their animal origins. We cannot
    deny out animal origins, we are at the mercy of our primal urges..
    reproduce, survive. And when we evolved the ability to speak,
    suddenly we were god-like. Above every other form of life on this
    planet. And yet we are too stupid to understand natures cycles of
    life and death, we think that we can control it? Instead we put
    things in to neat little categories, because we can only see in terms
    of ‘black and white’. And, oh.. the egos! I want to become an
    activist because it makes ‘me’ feel better about myself.. I tell you,
    not many of the ones I have met or heard from are doing it for any
    other reason than they are easily led or to get some personal power
    out of it. Whatever, many philosophers have stated it a lot more
    eloquently than me. The point is, we would be better served to use
    our actually quite limited intellect to try to sustain our species,
    whilst showing as much respect and compassion to other animals as
    possible. But we are on the top of the food chain here. By the way,
    quite easy to see that meat eaters tend to find it instinctive, where
    as vegans seem to have to be ‘enlightened’ (brainwashed). Activism is
    good and necessary when it is not undertaken out of sheer ego
    fulfilment.

  • Norwald

    What a bunch of hooey.

  • Ivegan

    You can instantly tell this lady is a big fat fibber in the pay of the meat industry. Oh tell me more about all those stalking murderous vegans who came after you and you have to be under 24 hour lockdown to protect yourself! Do tell! Normal sane vegans wouldn’t do any stalking because they know they’re in the right and that eventually the world will come around. Veganism is not just the saving grace of the environment (simply compare an organic vegetable farm to an organic cattle farm environment-wise) but it’s also the solution to the modern health crisis of obesity, cancer, and other silly health problems created by meat, dairy, and eggs, and it’s also about evolving into better human beings by not destroying the entirety of our fellow living creatures. (Wouldn’t it be weird to be stalking one sell-out meat-eater when your entire lifestyle is about love and kindness toward your fellow living creatures?) Oh yes, and it’s also about ending world poverty, but… whatever. Lierre is talking crazy talk nonsense. But I ain’t gonna stalk her. I got worse things to worry about, like how they might elect that one guy who tied his dog to the top of his car. 

  • Wingman

    Wow. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Here’s the stoooooooooopid first sentence: “ON THE ONE HAND, a locally grown steak, from a cow raised on grass and without hormones. On the other hand, a highly-processed soy burger that was grown somewhere far away, with many ingredients I cannot pronounce.” Um. Okay. How about a fair comparison? A big bucket of mulch versus a cheeseburger. Kidding, kidding. How about the most organic piece of meat in the world on the one hand. And an organic lemon on the other hand. Lemon wins! Only an undereducated vegan gobbles down the soy like there’s no tomorrow. Load o’ crap this article. The book sounds stooooopid too, but I’m not going to bother. Never mind. I’ve been a vegan five years and I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m at my ideal body weight, and the chronic illness I had before I became vegan is gone. I know a lady who cured her diabetes by becoming vegan. Oh never mind, though. Stoooooooopid. Meat-eating is the new cigarette smoking. On its way out no matter what so-called prodigal meat-eaters say. 

  • Jorge Lavorerio

    WOW, WOW. WOW, what an eye opener! “The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.” -Lierre Keith.

    • Jorge Lavorerio

      This woman is an incredible writer! Nothing like a different point of view to make you think.. wonderful!

    • Karen Call

      And do you realize that it takes 16 times more plants to create a tertiary consumer than a Vegan, and 20 times more land? Please read and seek to the understand the Energy Pyramid. 90% of energy is lost each time one goes up the from primary producer (plants), to primary consumer (herbivores), to secondary consumers (animals that eat herbivorous animals), to tertiary consumers (animals that eat animals who have eaten other animals: for i.e., a meat-eating human who is eating livestock who have been fed rendering plant feed containing euthanized cats, dogs, and other animals.). The very definition of what it means to be a carnivore means this law will never change.

      The reason we are using so many pesticides and herbicides, genetically modified foods, and have factory farms is because there’s not enough room: the goal became pertinent, due to the meat-eating lifestyle, that we create more and bigger crops on smaller plots of land and to solve problems with lack of space to grow the amount of crops needed to grow all the animals, the lack of arable land from pollution, and water shortage.

      80% of the world’s crops are going to feed livestock animals that are being grown from Artificial Insemination and slaughtered on a daily basis.

      The #1 use of our fresh drinking water is to grow the crops that are primarily going to animals raised by AI (forced into existence without animals’ consent, while the animals are kept impregnated throughout their lives from as early as possible) and raised to slaughter.

      The #1 reason for deforestation globally is to grow the crops that are primarily going to animals for slaughter, and is the #1 reason of irreversible desertification and climate change. (If you’re interested in knowing the ramifications to the environment, I’m happy to go into specific, great detail for you.).

      The #1 polluter of our soil and water is from non point source pollution: the agricultural sources of the pesticides and herbicides I mentioned due to the meat-eating lifestyle (which demands humans create more crops on smaller plots of land in order to grow all of the artificially inseminated animals) in addition to the urine, blood, and feces run-off of livestock industry animals.

      The #1 contributer to greenhouses gases (further contributing to drought) is from the livestock industry, contributing greater than 18%, larger than any other sector including the transportation sector, according to reports by the UN.

      If eating non-human animal flesh were a natural right of human animals, all humans ought to be able to do it. However, you’ll see they can’t. If all humans were animal flesh-eaters, only 2 billion of the 7 billion currently alive would be able to eat: the rest would starve to death. Currently 2 billion people per year die from lack of access to food and fresh drinking water, when they could be eating the electron-rich plants themselves, rather than filtering it through many animals (which is like taking your water and filtering it through a sewer). Not to mention, this isn’t including what the compounded effects would be on health and further degradation to the environment from such actions. “Only” 2 billion dying rather than 5 billion, because a plant-based eater out there is counter-acting, by their existence, the damage to our health and environment we otherwise would have.

      On the other hand, we can already feed the world 10 times over were all humans to adopt a plant-based diet.

      Feel free to verify all statements.

    • K Scott Perry

      I believe the author is arguing against civilization- that would eliminate our billions and restore balance- why are people not paying attention to the actual proposal on the table here?

    • James L Zzyzyx

      probably because the article isnt titled why civilization wont save the world

    • Chris G. Trudel

      Exactly what I was thinking, K!

    • Randolph Carter

      The thing is not wether you are vegetarian or carnivoure, the problem is that we are disconnected from the whole cycle, we cannot longer live like we live. The actual City structure concept was conceived in order to fit the Industrial Revolution interests(leverage), which takes the balance out of everything, humans are turned to slaves, therefor they need to be closer to their working space, in order to fit more humans in cities, the slave housing spaces are narrowed, they no longer have to work the land, also because of the exploitation of the people and land of LatinAmerica which started producing so much food for so cheap that allowed Europe to be industrialized and focused on processing and manufacturing. Its living in cities that makes the imbalance, cities are like blackholes, and the sole purpose of cities is production, cities are overpopulated, hence overproduction is needed, also to satisfy the stock market games that make a lot of people rich without actually working or being aware of all of nature´s cycles, social and economic cycles being part of nature as well. Another truth in this is that production of food, animal and vegetables are not subject to demand, we dont produce what we need, tons of meat, grains and vegetables, etc… are thrown to rot, as well as other things being produced in the land (lets remember, that agriculture is not only meant for food, theres medicines, rubbers, and other materials being obtained through the over exploitation of the land) so the stock brokers at wall street can play with the prices for their convinience (which is getting rich with someone elses work). So take that into account, vegan, vegetarian, meat eater, whatever, whats wrong is the fact that actual cities are artificial structures above nature whose purpose is to produce, produce, produce hence the consume, consume, consume, but also theres a lot of waste because the psychology that this structures have provoked in humans is one that is totally disconneted from all of the natural cycles that not only our planet, hence us are part of, but the whole universe is tied to this natural cycles, so if we are disconnected from them and feel we are above them, whats going to happen in the end? A clash! but since we are not even a microospic entitiy in the eyes of the whole universe, the ones who will suffer in the end are only us! Nature in this planet will find its balance, which at this point seems that that means, nature will be getting rid of us! it will never happen backwards!

  • Anonymous

    For those of us who understand why vegetarian diets don’t work like they used to, i.e., the soil no longer has the nutrients to pass on to the plant thus making them less than what they used to be, and thus are wise enough to supplement our diets with those things that the plant can’t give (like B-12) the basis of the presentation by Lierre Keith shows why vegetarians have such a bad name. I know of lots of people now in their 50′s who have been lifelong vegetarians and show no depreciation of health or allergies or any of that other stuff mentioned in some of the replies from former vegetarians. The other aspect that is seriously missing is that everyone is relying on self and nature for the meaning of their lives and that is not where it is found and never has been. It is found in God and Him alone. There are eight health laws practiced by those of us who are Seventh-day Adventists. Primary among the eight is Trust in God. Without Him, without faith in His plan given at creation (which Kieth and most others would blatantly deny in favor of evolution, itself one of the biggest lies ever perpetrated upon mankind) will ultimately result in failure because it excludes Him who is the source and Creator of all things in the first place. He never intended that man should consume any animal flesh of any kind. It was man’s perversion of His original diet that brought about all of the curses we see today in the way of diseases and afflictions that are prevalent in society. And now, like everything else, instead of treating the root cause of the problem, which is almost invariably related to diet, they use drugs that treat symptoms and cause many more problems down the road until society is utterly dependent on drugs and meat as the only means to live. No, I’ll take God’s way and live a natural, healthy life that’s pleasing to Him and let Him take care of the rest for most assuredly, man has abused the planet as well as himself and God has just about had enough and He will judge the world in His wrath and all this confusion will come to an end.

  • Katerina Triantos

    Completely disagree. It takes way more water and crops to feed livestock, than if we simply eat the crops instead. Sure, soy-burgers are not environmentally friendly, but I rarelyy purchase or consume them. I don’t know any vegetarian who eats nearly as many soy-burgers as most meat-eaters eat meat. Similarly, I don’t know many meat-eaters who eat mostly local, grass-fed, and hormone-free cows (if at all). Also, shouldn’t the well-being of animals be a priority as well? Giving money to companies to blatantly abuse and slaughter 1 billion animals every single hour is just flat-out wrong. I feel like this is a poor excuse for meat-eaters to feel better about giving their money to these companies. Obviously, if you are a meat-eater, that is your business and decision, but it’s less environmentally friendly.

    • Charlotte Jackson

      Preach, sista.

    • Paolo James Cacchione

      You can’t cure dumb… and you… are dumb.

    • Katerina Triantos

      I sincerely wish you, your wife, and your daughter a peaceful and happy life. I know you are loved and are dear to those you are close to. We simply have different opinions- peace.

    • Tim Dowd

      how can it take more crops and water to feed livestock? Livestock is a stored energy source. This is why it is more efficient to eat meat as a livestock doesn’t go to waste and livestock will make use of crop that is otherwise inedible for human consumption. Global ‘veganism’ is not a sustainable ideal. What we need to do is raise awareness towards the quality of life that is often associated with animals that are bred for slaughter and put a stop to huge companies whos priority is not the welfare of animals but greed and capitalism. Will this ever happen? I hope so but these companies are so huge and powerful that it is doubtful.

    • Katerina Triantos

      i see why you would think that, but it actually takes 1/6th an acre of land to feed a vegan for a year compared to 3.25 acres to feed an omnivore (which is about 20 times more land). 72% of cereal grains are consumed by livestock, not humans. It’s similar with soybeans and corn. It also takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of streak and about 8 times more fossil fuel to produce animal protein compared with plant protein. I definitely agree with you that huge companies are not concerned with the welfare of animals though. I don’t know if this appalling treatment of animals will end, but we can only do what we are able to and see what happens from there.

    • K Scott Perry

      Katerina, I think you are missing the point…. if done properly, the author is arguing it would take zero extra water or grain beacause we would be rellying on natural permaculture systems. Nobody feeds the buffalo or elk, they feed themselves….

    • Jake Shandanski

      That’s assuming that you need imported water and need to plant and raise the “crops” to feed these animals. Research Allan savory and Joel Salatin. Raise soil creating animals on perennial grasses and rainwater capture. Their technique restores dead soil to life and build soil to the tune of feet of topsoil per year. This doesn’t happen when you grow veggies. Unless, of course, you use permaculture techniques. Research permaculture. Amazing stuff. Peace.

    • Jett Brohnson

      Disagree with what? You don’t have an argument to disagree on……..

      No where in the article do i read about her glorifying, saying, or even implying that cattle ranches, or other means of cultivated animal farming are the answer or “less destructive” than plant cultivation. I think she implying cultivation in general (animal or plant) is destructive, and a world where we live off the wilderness, in its natural environment is the best way to go. I.E hunting, foraging, small scale gardens, etc… But, unfortunately thats not really possible at this point given the mass numbers of people and destruction already done to ecosystems.

    • Mohamed Gamal

      Tim Dowd most forests that get cleared in Brazil are usually for the sake of making more pastures for animals take time to grow and they and their food need water, so instead of using those pastures for making food for our food, why not plant things that take up less resources (eating vegan uses 1/7 times the land than meat uses)
      furthermore in a world of 7 billion we can’t possibly turn our farmlands back to marshes and forests without causing a famine that would kill most people, we can’t afford to give up agriculture not only for that reason, we wouldn’t have time for inventing, discovering and learning altogether to make our lives better. If after all that you still want to protect the environment from the big bad human threat, why don’t you look into VHEMT and see if that is what you had in mind.

    • Mohamed Gamal

      Tim Dowd most forests that get cleared in Brazil are usually for the sake of making more pastures for animals take time to grow and they and their food need water, so instead of using those pastures for making food for our food, why not plant things that take up less resources (eating vegan uses 1/7 times the land than meat uses)
      furthermore in a world of 7 billion we can’t possibly turn our farmlands back to marshes and forests without causing a famine that would kill most people, we can’t afford to give up agriculture not only for that reason, we wouldn’t have time for inventing, discovering and learning altogether to make our lives better. If after all that you still want to protect the environment from the big bad human threat, why don’t you look into VHEMT and see if that is what you had in mind.

    • Ary Yogeswary

      taking care of the planet is NOT about choosing what food you wish to eat, but eating the food you have in your surrounding instead. If your habitat/local area grow mostly grain/veggies, then that is what you eat. If your habitat/local area only have moose or wild game animals, then that is what you eat. Our ancestor have had local wisdom of what to eat and our body have adjust itself for it. It simply destructive to open a broccoli farm (or something similar) in what was once a beautiful prairie for livestock for decades, just as it is destructive to destroy the lush rice and vegetable fields that exist for decades to start a newly trending chicken farming.

  • Hon Leun Cheong

    Eating lotS of meat is bad, eating a lot of plant is bad. Everyone need to eat less, some meat but more vegetable. Be moderate.

  • Samuel David Wilson

    It’s by nature itself that humans are driven to eat meat, it arose through evolution.
    It seams to me that “being” a vegetarian or vegan is a right that belongs to rich western civilizations for the most part.
    It doesn’t have a lot of practicality to African tribesmen or any 3rd world country who have only whatever nature at that time is giving them.
    Do we abuse eating meat in America? yes! The type of cloths we wear could have just as much an effect on our planet as our diet, or even the type of car we want to drive or house, etc.etc.
    We are all about excess, and keeping up with the Jones in America, and that’s the problem.
    As far as ethics ( subjectively translate as morals) go, ethics hold no empirical value, and cannot be supported through science. They arose through the transcendental nature of humans, and our personal, and social existence in nature.
    The closest this gets to science is bridged through psychology, and ran parallel with sociology, and Morals are subject to change in a society’s mores, and so influence the government.

    I believe it’s important to keep ethics objective, and morals personal without forcing them on another person.
    I myself as a Christian know from our sad history in government, starting with the Catholic Church, it is designed to fail.
    I believe in open arguments, and heated debates, and disagreements but this is best done under a government that is open to all walks of life- i.e This is easier said then done.
    Our country seems to be headed to a fascist state either way it goes, left or right because the leaders of both our party’s seem to play on our morals to a point of where we feel self righteous about ourselves, and so elitist. Not to mention both party s want us to look up to ONE MAN for answers which is always a mistake.( Rome didn’t need a Caesar).
    Neither side seems to have grace for each other, but only contempt.
    They are turning us against each other with our Gods, and diets, and individuality……maybe ;).

  • Vivek Anand

    Atleast, we care the well being of animals. But it is immoral to extend human welfare and not even care even if some of the other fellow animal get, tortured, slaved or even extinct. this is injustice! I totally agree to katerina. I strongly say that if all are vegetarians , we can end food crisis. This is fact!

    • Dinesh Gc

      :D thank god!!V may not care abt the animals, But v care lot abt the land, which our near future needs it to the greater extent :P

    • Vivek Anand

      pls read the comment below by @katerina Triantos . You will get it!

    • Jake Shandanski

      With our planet becoming a desert, we have to do what builds ecosystems.

  • Michelle Glavic

    Wait a minute.. being vegetarian actually does contribute positively to the world. We’re not necessarily “saving” it but we’re far more environmentally friendly than meat eaters. A vegetarian who drives a hummer is more environmentally friendly than an omnivore who rides a bike. Just some food for thought. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of meat. Vegetarians roughly save up to 95 lives a year. I know a vegetarian who had to take a month off of school because of protein deficiency. I remember a doctor saying the vegetarian diet is very healthy but also difficult to do right (in today’s world anyway.) So yes there are pitfalls to vegetarianism and inevitably there will be ex-vegans.

  • Laure Anne

    Ok when she says that agriculture is the most destructive thing that man did… But only ok when she speaks about the chemical and intensive agriculture… It may be replaced by the system of permaculture, that will recreate an ecosystem.

    And then, she contradicts herself a little lower, it’s funny. She says that being vegan is not the solution because of agriculture. How feeds she her cattle? In prairie virgin of all pesticides? No, I don’t think so… rather with GMO soy responsible of deforestation…

    And for the B12, it is precisely this type of intensive agriculture that made it’s no longer naturally in the soil. They make B12 injections to animals. So between eating meat implanted in B12 or take some B12 supplement, it amounts to the same moral choice than eating a steak or a vegan burger.

    • Richard Cristian Homorodean

      yeah but isn’t she saying in her book that grasslands are home to unimaginable amounts of life ( bacteria , insects animals etc ) which wouldn’t exist in permaculture or any other kind of agriculture ? The whole idea is that you have to destroy life to gain life …. even bacteria , insects and so on have their own eco syst in which they need to survive . take it away and buid something of your own ( agriculture , permaculture etc ) you destroy their world , you kill them . If you temper with a Biome you alter their existence … . Being just vegan is not helping the world , finding nutritional balance between the both is the best solution . It would change the world . I am not against vegans ,i am just saying what i think , after a long study about this subject . Have a nice day :)

  • Jolita Brilliant

    youre right (ex vegan).

    • Malcolm Hawthorne

      You are confused.

    • Jolita Brilliant

      im not Malcom, you could study nutrition and learn that not all diets works for everyone, btw I can give scholarships to IIn let me know if interested

    • Malcolm Hawthorne

      I have been in this field a long time. I am probably much more knowledgeable than you.

    • Malcolm Hawthorne

      Anyway, you are interesting.

    • Jolita Brilliant

      good for you.

  • Karen Call

    And do you realize that it takes 16 times more plants to create an animal flesh-eater than a Vegan, and 20 times more land? Please read and seek to the understand the Energy Pyramid. 90% of energy is lost each time one goes up from the primary producer (plants), to primary consumer (herbivores), to secondary consumers (animals that eat herbivorous animals), to tertiary consumers (animals that eat animals who have eaten other animals: for i.e., a meat-eating human who is eating livestock who have been fed rendering plant feed containing euthanized cats, dogs, and other animals.), and so on to quaternary consumers. The very definition of what it means to be a carnivore means this law will never change.

    Think of each tertiary consumer as representative of all of the plants that it took to create the secondary consumers they have eaten as well as the primary consumers the secondary consumers have eaten.

    The reason we are using so many pesticides and herbicides, genetically modified foods, and have factory farms is because there’s not enough room as the demand for flesh is too great as it is: the goal became pertinent, due to the meat-eating lifestyle, that we create more and bigger crops on smaller plots of land to grow the amount of crops needed to grow all the animals, to solve problems of the lack of arable land from pollution, the lack of space for all the animals, and water shortage due to growing the crops that are primarily going to grow the Artificially Inseminated animals.

    In fact, ~80% of the world’s crops (grains, like soy and corn mostly) are going to feed livestock animals that are being grown from Artificial Insemination and slaughtered on a daily basis.

    The #1 use of our fresh drinking water is to grow the crops that are primarily going to animals raised by AI (forced into existence without animals’ consent, while the animals are kept impregnated throughout their lives from as early as possible) and raised to slaughter.

    The #1 reason for deforestation globally is to grow the crops that are primarily going to animals for slaughter, and is the #1 reason of irreversible desertification and climate change. (If you’re interested in knowing the ramifications to the environment, I’m happy to go into specific, great detail for you.).

    The #1 polluter of our soil and water is from non point source pollution: the agricultural sources of the pesticides and herbicides I mentioned due to the meat-eating lifestyle (which demands humans create more crops on smaller plots of land in order to grow all of the artificially inseminated animals) in addition to the urine, blood, and feces run-off of livestock industry animals.

    The #1 contributer to greenhouses gases (further contributing to drought) is from the livestock industry, contributing greater than 18%, larger than any other sector including the transportation sector, according to reports by the UN.

    If eating non-human animal flesh were a natural right of human animals, all humans ought to be able to do it. However, you’ll see they can’t. If all humans were animal flesh-eaters, only 2 billion of the 7 billion currently alive would be able to eat: the rest would starve to death. Currently 2 billion people per year die from lack of access to food and fresh drinking water, when they could be eating the electron-rich plants themselves, rather than filtering it through many animals (which is like taking your water and filtering it through a sewer). Not to mention, this isn’t including what the compounded effects would be on health and further degradation to the environment from such actions. “Only” 2 billion dying rather than 5 billion, because a plant-based eater out there is counter-acting, by their existence, the damage to our health and environment we otherwise would have.

    On the other hand, we can already feed the world 10 times over were all humans to adopt a plant-based diet.

    And you don’t have to kill a plant in order to eat from it.

    Vegetarianism isn’t enough: the meat, veal, and dairy industries are inseparable, as are the chicken egg and chicken flesh industries due to the way the profit system works. Show me a business who sells animal products without killing the animals they exploit afterwards (or the largely non-profitable animals, like the males), and I’ll show you a business out of business.

    In industry terms, it is non- profitable to continue the life a being after they have ceased being profitable (or weren’t profitable to these ends to begin with: which explains the veal (male calf) industry, or why male calves are shot after starting the milk flow after birth, and why ~50% of all chicks, the males, are ground up alive or suffocated in bags after hatching: they are not profitable to the industry.). So the flesh and animal exploitation industries can in no way be separated from the other as long as people are making profits from animal secretions (cow’s breast milk, hens’ periods, bee vomit, etc.).

    Feel free to verify all statements.

  • Michael Liberman

    I agree with the author. A vegan strives to live with the land but in order to provide themselves suitable sustenance, they must eventually delve into he world of chemical substitutes, ineffective supplements and more. I believe that the different factions have arisen due to the misunderstanding about why our land is turning to desert but lately the reasons and a solution have come to us. The question is, will we allow the destruction of desertification? Take a look…http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html

  • Bob Amato
  • Colin Honeyman-Smith

    Why does she not consider the farming of cattle for beef, or any other livestock to eat, not agriculture. It is a known fact that it takes aprox 7 times the acres to feed a carnivore as a vegetarian so eating meat leads to more agriculture.. And as for that nonsense about removing all the bacteria from farm land Please.

    • Kevin Rosinbum

      Nonsense? Clearly you have never been exposed to any info regarding monocrop corn or soy tilling practices, particularly those using GMO varieties which, frighteningly make up the vast majority of these crops in the central United States and many other areas around the globe.

  • Nicholas Galgoul

    I really liked everything this bitch was saying until she talked about shitting on Republicans, as if Democrats were completely free from sin and aren’t scheming against the populace with full steam ahead. So much for her following her own advice. So much for me purchasing her book- which, ironically, seems to be just as ‘extreme’ as the people trying to save this planet…She just found a new niche. I’m unimpressed.

  • Nicholas Galgoul

    I really liked everything this bitch was saying until she talked about shitting on Republicans, as if Democrats were completely free from sin and aren’t scheming against the populace with full steam ahead. So much for her following her own advice. So much for me purchasing her book- which, ironically, seems to be just as ‘extreme’ as the people trying to save this planet…She just found a new niche. I’m unimpressed.

  • Ronnie Wright

    This is a good website that completely debunks the book “The Vegetarian Myth”.

    http://vegetarianmythmyth.wordpress.com/

  • Buddy Rennie

    Farming meat is agriculture… Raw veganism for health and don’t refer to mono culture as agriculture. Permaculture works do some research. Don’t act like you have debunked the entire agricultural system (yes monoculture is stupid) and all plant based diets are wrong for health morality and political reasons.
    Sounds like your book will sell a few copies based on shock value and support anti vegetarian/vegan view points.

  • Nina Maritz

    I agree with Lierre Keith – sustainable livestock & game farming is much more environmentally friendly that mono-culture cropping.

  • Katie Dancer

    The only thing that will “save the world” is if humans stop multiplying. That’s the biggest problem, the blight of humans on the planet.

  • Baron Morris

    Very interesting and provocative stuff, with many valid points… but it takes exponentially more resources to raise a pound of meat as it does to farm a pound of vegetables, ie, 100 times as much water, alone. So while vegetarianism may not save the planet, it does lighten the human impact somewhat (though admittedly not likely sufficient to save us from ourselves), while at the same time being arguably preferable from nutritional and ethical standpoints. The article (and perhaps the book) also appears to represent all agriculture as: “You take a piece of land and you clear every living thing off it–and I mean down to the bacteria. That’s what agriculture is. Richard Manning has this great line, “A wheat field is a clear-cut of the grass forest.”” does not seem to take into account smaller scale sustainable permaculture methods.

  • Baron Morris

    *This article brought to you by the American Beef Council. :-P

  • Vivek Chouksey

    Fluff, no evidence or scientific argument, just air. Only argument I can see here is soy vs organic meat. Modern livestock farming uses soy. Animals are raised on genetically modified soy diet. And soy does not grow in forests, it comes from agriculture. His writing is so lame that you can’t find any argument, wtf?

  • Jeca Amphigouri

    “ON THE ONE HAND, a locally grown steak, from a cow raised on grass and without hormones. On the other hand, a highly-processed soy burger that was grown somewhere far away, with many ingredients I cannot pronounce.”
    And how many native trees were cut down to grow the non-native grass to raise the cow? Few people are “local” to prairies. The author takes an interesting point (modern agriculture damages the planet, too) and gets all tunnel-vision about it. And why not spend more time looking at solutions? No need to have a cow-burger-vs-soy-burger dichotomy.

  • Julian Nam

    I do not think vegetarianism solves the problems agriculture creates. I just want to raise a few points; merely on the logistics, though the moral argument carries a lot of weight.

    I don’t disagree with the vegetarian aspects that it takes less land resources to nourish the population. However, I’m not certain that those “gains” are realizable. Why wouldn’t we eat more in this alternative scenario? Or grow make more expensive crops more plentiful? Our population and wealth continues to grow; surely we will consume more, especially as technology permeates into all agricultural areas. The arable land will be used to grow something. They grow tomatoes in the desert for crying out loud. That’s not even arable land.

    If it takes 2,500 gallons of water (someone said that) to produce a pound of steak, moving away from an agriculture society doesn’t change that (I can think of many reasons why it would actually increase). Either we leave that steak out in the field, or we eat it.

    A bit off topic, but, I disagree with the notion that eliminating animal food from the diet will cause famine, assuming that vegetarian diet is agriculturally possible. People adapt. This is easily seen if you observe caloric intake or meat intake, for example, along with a society’s growth in wealth.

    In the end, I think vegetarianism does not solve the problems agriculture produces. But I’m concerned about the issue; I just don’t see how we can reverse this agriculture society.

  • Lakshmi Nair

    I was raised as a Hindu vegetarian and so I might make up a 4th category of vegetarian….cultural/spiritual vegetarian. Though this article probably won’t change my lifestyle habits or spiritual beliefs, I actually see her point. The way we live on the planet today is wrong. It makes me reconsider my traditions which come from one of the first large-scale agricultural civilizations. I’ve always thought that if I were living amongst people where vegetarian food was scarce and respect for life and death were strong, I wouldn’t necessarily hold fast to my vegetarianism. I think true respect for nature trumps the worthy ideal of ahimsa.

    • Amy MacKenzie

      Thank you posting that Lakshmi, I really needed to read that now. I am facing a moral dilemma in regards to the food I consume these days and was considering following my daughter’s choice of becoming vegetarian. I have always supported the eating of meat. It was one of the turning points in human evolution, we are who we are because we started eating meat. However we ate lean, naturally fed animals, not the forced corn-fed montrosities we eat today. I ABHOR the pork, cattle, and poultry industries on how they treat these beings and the false food they are feeding us. After reading that article I feel that the best I can do is eat reasonably. (Which is good on so many levels since I am also a food addict, and am finally at healthy weight.) Eat local, naturally, healthily, as much as you can economically. It does cost more to eat better raised food, but the more we do the more it will become norm. The best way to fight these evil conglomerates is via the almighty dollar. Slowly but surely we will get and do what is right.

    • Godan Nambudiripad

      We all know we started manipulating the eco-system when we started agriculture. The real solution is to go back to the days before agriculture, shall we?

    • Lakshmi Nair

      Godan uncle, I’m not arguing against vegetarianism or veganism at all…given the world we live in today, I still feel like those are some of the best options we have. But I do see her point and I don’t see the kind of meat-eating that exists in tribal cultures to be spiritually inferior to our agrarian vegetarianism…that’s all. Who knows…at some point we may be forced to return to the days before agriculture due to our own ceaseless manipulations of the environment?

    • Lakshmi Nair
  • Valeria Saavedra

    Not an easy debate, but in my opinion both parts have good reasons. Agriculture is destructive, yes, as well as animal farming, both are actually things that have to be changed. As well as veganism is a movement to defeat the exploitation of animals, there are environmental movements to defeat the monocultures and promote better ways of agriculture. I don´t thing there is an ultimate solution no “save the world”, there are a bunch of solutions that together will make a better world. The most important solutions are those implemented by us, consumers. Decide what you buy and eat according to your knowledge and principles, that’s the best you can do.

  • Jan Steinman

    Although I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, this article resonates with me.

    Self-righteous moral vegans have never watched the vultures and crows following an industrial agriculture combine through a soybean field, feasting on the rodents and snakes killed by the machinery.

    Self-righteous political vegans compare the caloric value of their industrial monoculture crops to industrial meat feedlots, when they should acknowledge that grazed animals in small herds can “gather calories” for us on marginal lands that could not provide any calories otherwise.

    Self-righteous nutritional vegans point out the poor food value of industrially-raised grain-fed beef, while ignoring that ruminants on a natural diet provide superb nutrition in a way that pre-dates conventional agriculture.

    Sense a theme here? It’s industrial food we must do away with, whether meat- or plant-based! And broadly speaking, that includes agriculture as we know it, but not necessarily horticulture and pastoralism.

    A middle path is possible. The Masai consume the milk and blood of their animals without killing them. We use quick rotation with our dairy goats, which provide us with healthy milk, high in Omega-3 fat, which provide us with manure for a limited annual garden and a more extensive polyculture perennial Permaculture garden.

    In a much hotter world, humans may be forced back to pastoralism, herding their animals north and south with the seasons. Alan Savoy thinks this could sequester lots of carbon. It would be ironic if human-induced climate change forced us to be the change-agents of climate un-change!

    • Kevin Rosinbum

      Ironic? This would be miraculous. Thank you for the point toward Alan. Remarkable – I’ve not heard of his work until now.

    • FunkmasterAstronaut

      I wish I could up vote this 10 times.

  • Maneesh Jain

    Beign a vegetatian, vegan, meat- or sea-food eater is a matter of personal choice. However, to give unreasonable, unbalanced and baseless arguments to support one or denounce forms of dietery preferences is both undesirable and unacceptable. Blame it on vegetarians, the vast expanse of cornfields to feed livestock and poultry; the disappearing species of fishes in world oceans; the impact of fishing industry on forest ecosystem. Of course how can we ignore the health benifits of hamburgers and steaks, and thier contribution to human health in form of diabitis and obesity…

    • Rudra Dubey

      It’s something like whether early or late riser would change the length of a day; it’s too myopic to look at the balance of nature which is just from the perspective of single habit of one organism. Other than we derive pride in our eating habits, for the confined perspective of human’s sustenance, the natural selection yet to prove which one is better!

    • Rudra Dubey

      It’s something like whether early or late riser would change the length of a day; it’s too myopic to look at the balance of nature which is just from the perspective of single habit of one organism. Other than we derive pride in our eating habits, for the confined perspective of human’s sustenance, the natural selection yet to prove which one is better!

  • Dani

    In your opening, your compare eating dead animal flesh with a highly-processed alternative. “a highly-processed soy burger that was grown somewhere far away, with many ingredients you cannot pronounce”. Why would this processed soy burger be the dead animal flesh alternative? Healthy vegans don’t view the highly processed vegan alternatives to dead animals flesh as an option. If you became a little more creative in your food thought and preparation and not guided by the mass market “vegan” fast food products you would eat healthy, be kind and compassionate to all sentient beings and allow all creatures to live in freedom on THEIR own terms.

    • FunkmasterAstronaut

      Perhaps you should have continued reading past the first sentence. The idea that high production agriculture (specific to foods that meet a vegan diet) is allowing “all creatures to live in freedom” is a fallacy. We have destroyed countless ecosystems and leveled many environments to grow plants that feed us. So this idea that a vegan diet is somehow allowing animals to “live on their terms” is hilariously misguided.

  • Bill

    I call total BS on this article and the bogus premise of Lierre Keith’s book.

    1. “ON THE ONE HAND, a locally grown steak, from a cow raised on grass and without hormones. On the other hand, a highly-processed soy burger that was grown somewhere far away, with many ingredients I cannot pronounce.

    Up until a few weeks ago, the choice would have been easy. As a vegetarian, the soy burger is the ‘moral’ choice – relying on the least amount of animal suffering, the least amount of carbon/water use, and the best way for me to sleep at night”

    An obviously better comparison would be locally grown produce with locally raised livestock. Why this clearly absurd straw man argument? Her entire thesis on agriculture is based upon industrial models, with no mention of longterm and newly emerging models such as no-till farming and still evolving permaculture models.

    2. “The second reason is that I didn’t want a whole new group of idealistic young people to destroy their health. A vegetarian diet — and especially a vegan diet — does not provide for the long-term maintenance and repair of the human body. So vegetarians are on drawdown of their biological reserves.

    Eventually, the rubber hits the road. There is a whole generation of us here who believed in it and tried it until we did permanent damage to our bodies. It was all for nothing. It’s pointless suffering. And I want to stop the young ones from doing the same thing.”

    Flesh eating addicts have been making this uninformed argument for generations and it’s still wrong. Her anecdotal claim that she and some unidentified others “believed in it and tried” is even less acceptable than mine that I’ve been vegetarian for 40 years and have always been in good health and free of illness and that I know and have known countless others who say the same. Better than anecdote would be the research that supports her claims. Where is that?

    3. “You take a piece of land and you clear every living thing off it–and I mean down to the bacteria. That’s what agriculture is. Richard Manning has this great line, “A wheat field is a clear-cut of the grass forest.” He’s right.”

    He’s wrong and so is she. Stop using outdated and dysfunctional models of industrial agriculture to make this facile argument. No activist for the environment and nobody I know who cares about what they eat supports industrial agricultural models.

    4. “If our planet has any hope, it will be because we repair the perennial polycultures–the grasslands, the forests, the wetlands–and take our place once again as participants in those biotic communities, instead of as destroyers of them. That’s what we did for our first four million years–we were participants in living communities. It’s only in the last 10,000 that we’ve become monsters.”

    This woman sounds like an unschooled child! What the hell is she talking about? Is she advocating that all of humanity return to caves? Has she even tried this? I’ll guess not.

    Well, yes, as I’ve been advocating for decades that we need to restore ecosystems and protect them complete with the species that inhabit them and find our place in balance with that. Does she think livestock propagation will help to achieve these goals better than permaculture? She doesn’t even seem to know about sustainable agricultural developments of the last 40 years.

    I read though this entire article and it just gets more absurd by the paragraph. Lierre Keith is completely without credibility.

  • http://www.filmsforaction.org/ Films For Action

    It seems a bit dogmatic to say that “there are no personal solutions.” The
    collective daily habits of 7 billion people are a HUGE factor in
    everything. Saying this isn’t part of the picture is just nonsensical.

    Why is Kieth so extreme on this point? She could say… we need to eat less
    meat. Meat production is far more exhaustive of the land than non-meat.
    And if people continue to demand meat in every meal, whether it is
    organic or not, that’s going to cause problems for Keith’s goals of not
    fucking up the planet.

    Why not mention that eating mostly vegetarian with a little meat each week
    may be the best solution, which the planet could sustain?

    Instead I see in this article more vague and undefined statements like this:
    “The task of an activist is not to negotiate systems of power with as
    much personal integrity as possible – it’s to dismantle those systems.”

    Not once have I heard any of these authors offer tangible examples of what
    this looks like. The article focuses mostly on defending the consumption
    of meet, saying personal choices don’t matter, and that we need to
    confront power.

    I am SO TIRED of these vague non-solutions. I happen to agree that mass
    organizing is essential and personal acts are not enough by themselves,
    but I’m really tired of reading articles that tear down reasonable
    efforts and replace them with lofty platitudes without clear examples.

  • http://www.filmsforaction.org/ Films For Action

    Lierre Keith confuses agriculture, which includes thousands of ways of cultivating land, with the totalitarian version of agriculture a certain culture adopted 10,000 years ago.

    Agriculture itself isn’t the enemy. It is totalitarian agriculture.

    Permaculture, or the polyculture variety that Keith is in favor of is a form of agriculture. So it’d be great if she started being more specific. “Conventional agriculture, totalitarian..” etc..

  • John Yohalem

    Amusing!
    But before there was agriculture (and civilization), didn’t humanity destroy the megafauna all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and the Americas? Isn’t that why we turned to grazing flocks and planting seeds in the first place?

  • michael92064

    Ms. Keith was never a Vegan or Vegetarian. She destroyed her health eating bizarre diets. She has been interviewed by several radio stations. Search out the podcasts of those interviews and you will find she is sadly delusional, changing her stories in mid interview. She is not a well person.

  • Abeer Khshiboon

    And your article will not do that too.
    I agree with you that vegetarians will not be able to save the world only by their diet, but they have a very important ethical voice against the slavery of animals in our time. So, if you really think about saving the world, first you stop the shaming meat industry, then you help the world get back to the normal cycle of life.

  • Linda

    Much of what she says is true about power, however, she apparently is unaware of the recent science regarding diet and disease. Animal products are conclusively linked to all the major chronic diseases. How about the agriculture used to feed the animals to feed us? Take that out of the picture and the agriculture to actually grow food diminishes in scope. If we decide to grass feed all of that cattle, there will be even more land used for this purpose. We have to eat and that cannot be changed. I will still prefer to grow my own food – in the garden, thus taking the responsibility from agriculture to grow my food to the greatest extent possible while using land that would have been reserved for alien species of grass that have no ecological purpose and requires pollution to keep up. She has not changed my beliefs or diet. She wants to eat meat – let her eat meat and maybe spend a day in a slaughterhouse.

  • pick a door

    she is way way off base, it’s obviously an attention grab, read windizzsler below who correctly states that it takes much more (10 to 50 x more ) water and crops to raise cattle for beef than to feed humans. Sorry sweetie, i was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. Be a vegetarian is one of THE best choices that any thinking individual can ever make, period

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