The Vegetarian Myth

The vegetarian myth tells us that not eating meat leads to a sustainable diet. But eating plants exclusively will not solve the planet’s problems.

| June/July 2010

vegetarian myth - grazing buffalo

The vegetarian myth assumes animals are bad for the environment, but Buffalo and other grazing animals are a natural part of grassland ecosystems.


I was a vegan for almost 20 years.

I know the reasons that compelled me to embrace an extreme diet, and they are honorable — even noble. Reasons such as justice, compassion, and a desperate, all-encompassing longing to set the world right. To save the planet — the last trees bearing witness to ages and the scraps of wilderness still nurturing fading species, silent in their fur and feathers. To protect the vulnerable, the voiceless. To feed the hungry. At the very least, to refrain from participating in the horror of factory farming.

These political passions are born of a hunger so deep it touches on the spiritual. They were for me, and they still are. I want my life — my body — to be a place where the Earth is cherished, not devoured; where the sadist is granted no quarter; where the violence stops. And I want eating — the first nurturance — to be an act that sustains rather than kills. This is an effort to honor our deepest longings for a just world. And I now believe those longings — for compassion, for sustainability, for an equitable distribution of resources — are not served by the practice of vegetarianism. Believing in this vegetarian myth has led us astray.

Factory Farming is Not the Only Way

The vegetarian Pied Pipers have the best of intentions. I’ll state right now that everything they say about factory farming is true: It is cruel, wasteful, and destructive. But their first mistake is in assuming factory farming — a practice that is barely 50 years old — is the only way to raise animals. In my experience, their calculations on energy used, calories consumed, and humans unfed are all based on the notion that animals eat grain. You can feed grain to animals, but it is not the diet for which they were designed. For most of human history, browsers and grazers haven’t been in competition with humans. They ate what we couldn’t eat (cellulose) and turned it into what we could (protein and fat). But our industrial culture stuffs grain into as many animals as it can. Grain will dramatically increase the growth rate of beef cattle and the milk production of dairy cows. It will also kill them. The delicate bacterial balance of a cow’s rumen may become acidic and turn septic. Chickens get fatty liver disease if fed corn exclusively. Sheep and goats, which are also ruminants like cattle, shouldn’t touch the stuff either.

Not only that, but large portions of the world are utterly unsuited for growing large grain crops. And not just mountaintops in far distant Nepal, but close by in, say, New England. Cows are what grow here. So are deer, in their forest-destroying abundance. The logic of the land tells us to eat the animals that can eat the tough cellulose that survives here.

I think that this misunderstanding about animals and grain is born of an ignorance that runs the length and breadth of the vegetarian myth, through the nature of agriculture and ending in the nature of life. Most of us are now urban industrialists, and many of us don’t know the origins of our food. This includes many vegetarians, despite their claims to the truth. It included me, too, for 20 years. Anyone who ate meat was in denial; only I had faced the facts. Most people who consume factory-farmed meat have never asked what died and how. But frankly, neither have most vegetarians.

Considering Entire Ecosystems

Life isn’t possible without death, and no matter what you eat, something has to die to feed you. 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. Today’s industrial agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems.

9/22/2017 1:04:58 AM

People eating A LOT less would help everything! It's just not necessary to eat all the food we eat especially calorie-dense fast food! We are unable to work off the calories which causes obesity, straining the health care system! Find other reasons to live than eating!

9/22/2017 1:04:53 AM

People eating LESS would help everything!

8/21/2017 9:38:24 PM

I would argue that most respondents here have missed the salient point made by Keith in the excerpt given here; in order for a life to live, another life-whether animal or plant-has to die. There is no getting around that. But it is more than just one life. Every animal eaten has the ability to procreate a certain number of offspring, just like every plant has the same ability. However, most plants create more offspring on a yearly basis. A cow needs two full years of growth before producing one offspring in her third year. Most plants in a three year period produce many times that (not by themselves, of course, even if they are biennials; their seed(s) figure into this type of equation). So if one kills and eats a cow, one is taking only one life in the short term (1 1/2-2 years), but several in the long term. With plants however, one is taking many times more lives than that in both the short term and long term (I am weak in math, but one could calculate out the numbers). Every seed contains within itself the essentials for creating a new life; thus, when one throws a cup of rice into water and cooks all the grains, think of how many potential lives one is killing. Just because mature grains do not make audible sounds and bleed red blood has little bearing on the fact that one is killing many lives to sustain one life. Thus, when one is a vegetarian, one kills many more lives than when one is an omnivore or a carnivore. This argument holds true whether one eats rice, wheat, apples, peaches, etc. One also causes a certain amount of stress to plants by harvesting non-ripe seeds; i.e. cutting heads of broccoli, picking green beans or snap/regular peas, etc. There is a great deal of recent research that documents plants abilities to react to any situation that threatens its ability to reproduce, whether it is a human harvesting a part of it, or a bug eating a part of it, a mammal eating part of it, etc. In such situations plants send out alarms signals that are taken in by fellow plants, both of the same and different types. Recent research has also proven, for example, that trees "talk" to each other, in particular trees of the same type. They tell each other where certain nutrients are located, where certain areas to avoid are located; alarm bells go off when danger of an type happens and that information is transmitted. As I indicated at the beginning, life needs to die in order for live to live. What needs to happen then, is that this process needs to given respect. The ancient people's knew this, which is why they had various rituals to acknowledge the process. How many people today do the same? Such an attitude has little to do with being religious, or being spiritual, but rather acknowledging we are but one part of a whole and we have our part to play.

8/21/2017 4:55:01 PM

Even if cattle and bison able to eat grain and turn it into proteins and fat it's a moot point because over the past 100 years Food Inc. (Monsanto, Cargill, ConAgra, etc.) have genetically modified grains to be resistant to pesticides and herbicide's but a major distractive consequence is that grains have the same glycemic index as table sugar. Even whole grains. Also, people should not eat grains for this very reason. Grains contain a protein named Giladin which binds itself to opiate receptors in the brain which doesn't create a high but does create an addiction to more grain. The more grains one eats the more endocrine, digestive and circulatory/immune system maladjustments arise including insulin resistance and diabetes along with widespread inflammation and arteriosclerosis. Eating any kind of green is a zero sum game for grazing animals and humans.

8/21/2017 8:37:09 AM

BTW the Bundy, et al conflagration was/is not about IS about the Uranium ore there that must be mined to pay the Russians the uranium the CLINTONS sold to Russia. Sheeple wake up.

8/21/2017 7:35:42 AM

beef propaganda.

keith karolyi
3/2/2012 4:06:35 AM


ted stevens
3/2/2012 1:15:29 AM

I'm going to say one, and only one, thing about this, so those of you who understand what I'm about to say can get a better understanding of Lierre Keith: the issue is never the issue; the issue is always the revolution.

7/30/2011 6:59:11 PM

while admittedly Lierre is talented I'm not sure she really gets it, I'll finish her book, but only out of a sense of duty. another world really is possible. this is a big deal people. not only is another world possible, its forthcoming. and guess what , it could be great, if you people stop living in denial and fantasizing about nazi primativist scenarios because you're afraid.

ian taschner
11/18/2010 1:13:41 PM

I think the author of this should look into permaculture, so she can learn more about sustainable farming practices. And just so people know, there are vegan cultures in the east who are very healthy and whose practices date back over 500 years before Christ.... so Veganism is not a new concept at all. Just the word "Vegan" was invented in this century, but people would already know this if they actually did any research to back up their opinions.

ian taschner
10/18/2010 1:22:31 PM

I agree that mono-cropping and unsustainable agriculture is bad for the environment. But saying that grass fed cattle is the answer? And where have the wolves gone? Well I can tell you that cattle ranchers have been a big enemy of wolf populations and I have personally seen vast areas of mountain-side which used to be hundreds of thounsands of acres of old growth forests cut down why? TO GRAZE CATTLE! Check out Cattle Grazing and the West's Wasteland for instace. I don't think you will find anything about how GREAT it is for the environment. You should not call something THE TRUTH when it is your partially educated opinion.

john mclaren
9/9/2010 3:43:12 PM

It's also silly to think that the rare native peoples who ate more meat than veggies were eating our idea of the prime cut. To survive, people who had few fruits or vegetables has to eat a lot of parts of the animal we would not touch, like the liver, to try to obtain the nutrition of the veggies those animals were eating. But we now have a huge advantage over native diets in that we can carefully cook or prepare foods to make foods we could never normally eat as humans more digestible. Don't forget- we only evolved from herbivores to omnivores very recently, with the price that we can't digest most of that in raw form.

john mclaren
9/9/2010 3:32:48 PM

I was vegan for longer than Lierre Keith, and I mostly still eat that way. Like Kieth, I have moderated it. Unlike Keith, I just choose to be less dogmatic, not dump the concept. Some will say this is not vegan and it's not, but 98% of my diet is still meat free, and it's 99.99% dairy free. Look- you can get everything you need from fresh fruits and veggies but some B-12 and some related things. I eat a little fish or chicken once a week. I will not go near mammals as food for both out sakes. They are not even safe at this point, and are too close on the evolutionary chain to prevent us getting their diseases. Domesticated beasts are not natural or healthy- why would anyone eat them? I live in the vast prairie Keith talks about. Near veganism is ecologically equivalent to veganism. A handful of shrimp or some chicken once a week doesn't change the balance. Sure, mammals are good for the earth. Bring the tough bison back who's competitive herds ensured high health. In asia, people use human manure. We compost and do the same. If there is a choice between the environmental impact of monocrops, and monocrops for feed PLUS huge cattle farms, only using monocrops is an important first step. I'm sick of vegans with poor, non-fresh, unsupportive vegan diets in name only, claiming the concept wrong. I'm in the middle of meat country and veganism makes just as much ecological and political sense here as anywhere. We need greenhouses, not the false comfort of bison burgers.

8/20/2010 5:44:41 PM

I've purchased five copies of Lierre's book, one for my own frequent reference, and four to loan to those who need the incredible information within. I have a history similar to Lierre's -- permanent damage from vegetarianism, including diabetes. I now look to older information (like Weston Price's), because time-tested makes the most sense, and I can't risk further damage. The truth is that vegetarianism can be terribly unhealthy, even when it is done carefully and conscientiously. Protein doesn't necessarily combine into complete aminos, and protein can be converted to use as carbohydrate even then. Carbs require insulin which wreaks havoc within the body, any body, but for vegetarians, it's more damaging because there is little to eat that isn't carb-laden. Ecologically speaking, meat is major: grassfed beef and bison build top soil. No other way of eating can claim that. Permaculture without animal inputs destroys the soil as surely as industrial agriculture does. This should be obvious: Nature has a great system of systems, and when humans try to subvert, even owing to noble ideals, it doesn't work. And it amounts to playing god. I'm willing to acknowledge that I am an animal in the cycle of eat-and-be-eaten, a cycle of nothing wasted at its optimum. We need to get back to that, and _The Vegetarian Myth_ is an awesome how-to and why-to resource.

8/17/2010 10:10:30 PM

Very reliable studies that go back many years supports Lierre Kieth's findings. My sister who was a vegan for 20 years found herself along with her daughter spiraling down at a quick clip. She new she had to change something and douond that the missing factor was animal fat. She shanged her diet in in a short amount of time gained vibrant health. I have spoken to many other Vegans that have been doing it for years and found that many suffer from the maladies Kieth speaks of. The top of the list is thyroid problems. I certainly do not judge anyone for their choice on eating. I would recommend that yound Vegans speak to ones that have been doing it for years to find out what health problems they have. This could be where you are headed. Each person has a choice to live demanding Justice or Mercy. In choosing we put ouselves in the same paridigm that we judge others. Justice is a cruel task master and is relentless. Mercy however is life giving. It nurtures and supports all of us humans that can make mistakes. I can not change the world but hopefully I can change what I personally am going to allow rule my life. The choice is mine every day and I need to renew the choice to be mercyful to others as I would want them to be to me. I can be cause driven or I can be people supporting but rarely both. The more we have tinkered with changing the things that we had passed down to us from our forefathers amd mothers it seems we have done ouselves damage.

sherry kimmons_2
8/14/2010 6:43:20 PM

(continued) Ms. Keith really misses the point when she rather sarcastically refers to the “noble” motives of vegetarians/vegans wanting “to save the world” or “to set the world right.” While scientific data truly does support the concept that a plant-based diet is much more environmentally friendly (and better for personal health) than one that includes animal products, these are secondary motivations for being vegan. The priority for vegans is compassion for living, feeling creatures, from the microscopic to human beings—not intentionally harming or exploiting them in any way. Eating animals raised on small organic family farms (of which there are few these days) may be better for your health and their raising easier on the environment than factory farming, but this still leaves the ethical and moral issue of killing and eating them unaddressed. Human beings do not have to eat meat or animal products to live and be healthy. Ms. Keith may have eaten a plant-based diet for 20 years but it does not sound like she was truly a vegan. She sounds bitter but does not explain why she stopped eating a plant-based diet, other than flatly stating her unsupported opinion that it does not serve compassion, sustainability, or an equitable distribution of resources. The misinformation in her book excerpt struck me as rationalization and denial. There is no “truth” here, just oddly misguided, angry personal opinion.

sherry kimmons_2
8/14/2010 6:34:57 PM

I can understand why Mother Earth News would want to print provocative articles that initiate thought and discussion, and those from authors who represent various perspectives on a given topic. In the case of the article (June/July 2010 edition) “The Truth About Vegetarianism” adapted from Lierre Keith’s book The Vegetarian Myth, however, Ms. Keith does not cite research or studies at all to support the personal opinions that she advocates, which may explain why this book excerpt really couldn’t be much further from the truth. Ms. Keith says that “Agriculture is the most destructive thing that humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us.” The problem is that she disparages the wrong form of agriculture--most vegetarians and vegans look for sustainably grown organic plant foods. On the other hand, factory farms (that account for 95% of the foods that Americans eat, according to Michael Polllan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma) are responsible for an enormous amount of environmental destruction as well as cruelty to animals. The monocultures of corn and soy that she mentions in the article are not grown to feed vegetarians and vegans. They are grown primarily to feed the food animals raised in these concentrated animal feeding operations. If Ms. Keith would visit the website, she would find some statistics with citations to the sources that are pretty interesting. For example, “A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.” (H. Steinfeld et al., Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Livestock, Environment and Development (2006).)

8/11/2010 11:40:44 AM

I think the meat/veg discussion is overlooking the REAL cause of America's disease problem. GRAINS. Whether whole grain or processed, the body easily converts this stuff to glucose. Insulin is elevated almost constantly because people are snack obscessed. There's corn syrup in beverages. So even drinking raises glucose which raises insulin which causes inflammation in the body. If one were vegetarian eating vegetables (NOT grains- wheat, barely, rye, corn, soy(ok it's a legume), rice, etc) you would be protected from inflammatory diseases. Meat, veggies and fruits, nuts and seeds do not raise blood sugar wildly, which does not cause high levels of insulin, which prevents the inflammation. I think Meat is getting all the blame for disease. Anyway, eat the way that makes you feel your best.

patrick _1
8/6/2010 8:01:37 PM

continued: -Eating a variety of grass-fed meat, including organ meat, from producers who have respect and a sense of stewardship for the land and animals they earn a living from. Sometimes this means lots of carbs (in the summer when lots of yummy fruits and veg is available) and sometimes low carb (in the winter I might even get ketogenic) -Ending my addiction to caffiene, sugar, and that incredibly comforting blood sugar spike that comes with processed carbs -Learning the art and joy of cooking (this isn't something I grew up with) for myself and friends. One final comment (rant); I think we can agree on one thing, that sugar is addictive, and some large corporations are essentially raping the land to produce cheap, sugary junk-food, and selling it to the most vulnerable parts of society. I'm angry every time I walk through tunnels of cheap junkfood at the supermarket, seeing clearly unhealthy people filling their carts because it's cheap, they're addicted (just like me) and they don't know any different. Think of all the pain and suffering this contributes to. Heart disease, cancers, depression, diabetes, etc. Think of how much money and resources are spend treating these diseases. How much joy, talent, and love are wasted by these diseases. As useful as this discussion is, sometimes it degenerates into ideological squabbling. Surely there are bigger issues we can tackle together.

patrick _1
8/6/2010 7:59:01 PM

Part A: Thank you to MEN for publishing this article, and thankyou to all the people engaging in this discussion. This issue is close to my heart. I was a vegetarian for about 17 years, from the age of 6 to 24 or so. For various reasons, I started incorporating meat into my diet when I was about 24. Now, I'm trying to follow a paleo-diet, although I often fall off the wagon. Over the past 4 years I've noticed that I get sick less, recover from exercise faster, feel like I have more energy, and my mood is more stable. I've also lost about 10lbs of fat and gained it back in muscle. Still, the environmental and ethical issues of eating meat keep up at night and lots of the discussion I've seen here mirrors some of the arguments I have with myself. However, I think both sides have a lot to agree upon, and that's what I'm really excited about. Many liberals/greens/conservatives/libertarians/gym junkies etc can agree on many of principles of the slow foods movement. For example: -The disfunction of factory farming, monoculture, and industrial agriculture. -The need to reconnect community and culture with food Ultimately, the question of what to eat is deeply personal, fundamental and spiritual. There are no easy, or right, answers. Personally, this is the diet I would like to strive for, even though I find it very hard.

janet stein_4
8/6/2010 10:48:40 AM

This article is not THE truth about vegetarianism. It is A truth about vegetarianism. It's true for the author but it is certainly not a universal truth. Many generalities are made in this article about vegetarians - that they are all unaware of the harm done by factory farming agriculture, that all of them believe not eating meat will save the planet (some are just vegetarians because they believe it is healthier). It's all very well to point out that animals don't have to be raised under cruel, unhealthy, planet-destroying conditions - the fact is they ARE. And they will continue to be as long as there is a market. And there will continue to be a market as long as people -- not just readers of Mother Earth News -- in their busy, financially-stressed lives do not find the time or money to search out humanely-raised meat. I wonder who Keith is addressing, who she thinks she is talking to, when she makes these high-falutin' suggestions about mindful living? Factory farming of both plants and animals is damaging to the environment but of the two, I believe factory farming of animals is worst as well as most inhumane. Just encouraging people to reduce their consumption of meat for any reason (concern for the planet, for their health, or for animals) would certainly help. It may be a more attainable target than getting people to embrace kas-limaal. I'm not a vegetarian but I believe we've gone hog-wild when it comes to eating meat.

8/4/2010 9:01:17 PM

I think I'll go grill my burger now.

8/4/2010 2:01:44 PM

@Julie (part 2 out of 2) And because I can't resist this, you say: "The fact is, whether you like it or not, that we were made to eat meat and some animals were made to provide it for us and other animals." No, that is explicitly NOT A FACT. We were MADE? By who? Or what? Inferring some sort of conscious, intentional design behind the biology and sociology of humans or other animals means inferring some sort of divine purpose, when there is absolutely no proof of a Creator, or that Nature/The Earth/The Ecosystem itself has any sort of will. As such, this is not a fact. Whether you like it or not, it is an OPINION, and one which quite a number of people do not hold.

8/4/2010 1:54:48 PM

Finally, @Julie: This is one of the dumbest arguments I regularly see made against vegetarianism. It's right up there with "How do you know plants don't feel pain, too?!" (A: Because they don't have nerves.) If all those cattle and pigs and poultry were no longer needed for meat, they wouldn't just be let go to die of predation and highway accidents as you suggest. No one (but you and handful of others I've seen make this argument) would be that stupid. Of course they would be euthanized, or used up for their meat. We vegetarians would be okay with that (and quite of number of us would volunteer to eat the remaining meat if it meant the whole world would go veg after that). Those of use who are veg because we don't want to support animal cruelty are simply tired of seeing animals being bred only to live lives of suffering. And as for those species becoming extinct: fine! Guess what- they aren't really contributed to useful biodiversity where they are now anyway! (Being carefully bred, and in some cases genetically modified, to live their lives sealed away from most wildlife, and given regular antibiotics to deal with the microorganism they do encounter.) So their extinction isn't really the tragedy that the extinction of wild species is. There will still continue to be many species of wild hogs, fowl, goats, etc., just as there are today. The extinction of what is a completely human construction (factory farming) will not really hurt the Earth.

8/4/2010 1:38:34 PM

TO EVERYONE SAYING "GRASS-FED ANIMALS ARE PART OF A HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM:" Duh. But that's pretty rare right now. Of all the people I know who profess that meat can be produced in humane and ecologically-sound ways, I know NONE who are eating meat EXCLUSIVELY from such sources. And that's understandable, given how difficult such meat is to procure for most people. But in the meantime, all such people should STFU about my being vegetarian. Stop acting as if something that COULD be made widely available IS CURRENTLY being made widely available.

8/4/2010 1:27:22 PM

Wow. It's a lot of comments (and I read through them all over the past two days). Pretty much everything that could be said on both sides of the argument have already been said, but I think I have a few new thoughts to contribute. TO EVERYONE SAYING WE VEGETARIANS/VEGANS ARE OVERREACTING, AND THAT THE ARTICLE ISN'T ATTACKING US: I read the article. And the content was...mostly neutral, you are correct. But the frickin' title of the book is "The Vegetarian Myth" and the title of the article is "The Truth About Vegetarianism." And guess what- vegetarians/vegans are a minority in the U.S. (Mother Earth's main audience), and lots of people feel attacked by our views (sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly), and feel compelled to attack back. Vegetarians/vegans being attacked for our view is a pretty common phenomenon, actually. So it is understandable, reasonable, and correct that a book or article thusly titled will be interpreted as attacking us, no matter what it says inside. And, supposedly having been vegetarian for 20 years, Lierre Keith would know this, and really should have titled her book differently if she didn't mean to attack vegetarians.

julie casey
8/3/2010 9:56:02 AM

Vegetarianism is the surest way to the extinction of several species alive today. Consider this: if the world quit eating beef and drinking milk, what would happen to the massive herds of cattle raised by farms and ranches? Would the ranchers feed them and keep them as pets? Would they let them go into the wild? Of course not; they would all die of starvation, predation (since they do not know how to live in the wild), or slaughter on our highways and by farmers to keep them out of the fields, which now must be used to grow more crops to feed a totally vegetarian world. And if some survived, think of the devastation they would cause to an ecosystem that wasn't designed for them. Same is true about hogs, goats, sheep, even chickens. These species would quickly become endangered and eventually extinct. The fact is, whether you like it or not, that we were made to eat meat and some animals were made to provide it for us and other animals. As long as we treat those animals humanely as they are raised, what does it matter that they will die to feed us or to feed a pack of coyotes. You can bet that being raised by humans and being killed quickly is a far better fate than being hunted by predators their entire life and being killed slowly and agonizingly bite after bite. We need to look at the whole picture rather than focusing on one little aspect of it. The author did a great job of broadening the focus of this issue.

8/2/2010 7:22:55 PM

I could spend hours on this subject, since I work in the health field and have a an educational background in integrative nutrition. I'll try to summarize: 1) Eating pastured animal products is perfectly healthy. Most studies do not go into great detail about the quality, and this is a key factor. Many Pro-Veg groups (like the PCRM) love to reitterate these misleading studies rather dishonestly. 2) Being a vegetarian (I'm on the fence about Veganism at present) is perfectly healthy. There's vegetarian and "vegetarian". A real vegetarian diet is low in soy and has moderate to high fat intake to properly assimilate the full nutritional value of a plants' fat-soluable vitamins. Likewise, a real veg diet doesn't contain fake meats and loads of unfermented soy. Some groups (like the WAPF), love to harp on vegetarian diets because they can't see past their own bias (the opposite is true as well). 3) Saturated fat does not cause heart disease. This is a Western medicine myth that gets repeated without question. Further, if cholesterol is the cause of heart disease, why do people on statins still die of CHD? 4) Each person has their own biochemical individuality. Some people need meat or they feel ill, others can't process it. Take a look around you: various cultures have existed for thousands of years on their own cultural diet. There is no single dietary path. 5) The issue of sustainability is an excuse. Permaculture is the way, and it can include animals or no animals.

craig lore_2
8/2/2010 6:57:12 PM

I have to admit that I did not become aware of this article until I saw the Letters to the Editor in August/September print issue of M.E.N. It IS interesting, however, to see the comments made and then read what caused the uproar. I am extremely pleased that Mother Earth does not always take the safe road or what some might think is the "politically correct" path. I happen to agree with Keith's article, so it isn't so much of a stretch for me to approve of the editorial decision to run it. However, I believe that articles or opinions on topics I may not agree with should be included in the magazine to broaden the appeal, to encourage discussion, and to offer alternative points of view. Good riddance to those folks who can't abide a differing opinion. Though Mother Earth News may lose a few subscribers who are too closed minded to consider other view points, she might gain others (or retain others) who are open to News about our Mother Earth, news that is not biased in its content, reporting, and subject matter. Thanks, Mother Earth New; keep up the good work.

heather t_2
8/2/2010 4:11:16 PM

Very well said. Looking at the US from an airplane, it's mostly farmland or desert. We think of farms nostalgically, but they are devastating to wildlife. I have been raising more and more of our own food, and it *can* be done rather easily and sustainably, locally. It's not just about the savings in petrol for not shipping food in from South America. It's about the chickens eating our leftovers, the biochar "eating" our land waste and CO2, cooking outside without smoke. The newer technologies make the old farming methods very obsolete, and I can see a future where people raise aquaponic fish alongside chickens and goats. Some simple technologies ... like polycarbonate greenhouses! ... extend the growing season and insulate the home farmer from the vagaries of rain and weather. I know not everyone has the time or inclination for this sort of thing. But I would love to see the resurgence of the "neighborhood farm" ... the local egg or tomato lady, or buildings converted to aquaponic farms. Most everyone with even a small yard can keep a chicken or two, which will solve a lot of your garbage and fertilizer needs. A few local pigs can handle restaurant waste. Goats can trim the brush areas. We *need* animals to have a healthy ecosystem, even in suburbia. Milk and eggs are nice byproducts!

8/2/2010 3:49:25 PM

I find the article & some comments ways to defend the want of eating meat. Facts - most agriculture in this country is for the raising of meat. AMA & Nat'l Cancer Inst. & Heart Assoc. all agree that eating meat causes heart disease & cancer among other things. It is proven that longer healthier life is from plant based diets. I was raised ranching, going to feed lots, etc. I've been on both sides. I realize in this culture it is not necessary to eat meat to survive, other places it may be a need, here it is a want. When your want causes problems for the masses, then maybe the want is not a good thing. I believe the best we can do is eat organically, locally, if you must eat meat use that as a criteria. As the politicians control everything else, the one change we can make to help the planet is where we spend our dollar. It's not always easy but maybe that is part of the problem, we want things too easy. We need to individually be more aware and less selfish in our daily lives. Everyone needs to be aware of factory farming & stop supporting it. The destruction it is causing to our eco system as well as to our health is one of the major problems in this country. Find a local farmer/rancher that raises meat responsibly & organically, eat less but eat better. Personally, I gave up meat entirely, I don't like that my life causes things to die, and yes things to live things must die, but I don't need to cause anymore than necessary. Peace

8/2/2010 2:38:01 PM

I do think meat-eating can be done sustainably, but it seems dishonest to point to horrible current methods of grain farming and blame vegetarianism: according to the website, "animals raised for food in the U.S. consume 90 percent of the country's soy crop, 80 percent of its corn crop, and 70 percent of its grain," so if those crops are a problem it's BECAUSE of the methods used to support cheap meat-eating in our country, not because of all the vegetarians eating tofu-corn sandwiches. The author also mentions New England as a difficult area to grow grain; we can, and in fact we used to grow quite a lot, but even so there's no grass in winter and the livestock has to be fed something, which has to be grown somewhere.

8/2/2010 1:42:17 PM

So many of the comments here focus on vegetables as being equivalent to meat for nutrition and healthy eating. Dr. Loren Cordain is the author of "The Paleo Diet", which advocated, not vegetarianism, but omnivorism, in that we should be eating lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables. His premise, for which he earned his doctorate, is that our bodies were programmed, from the earliest days of our species, to eat that way, in order for our bodies to be healthy and nutritionally complete. This is, of course, a hunter-gatherer diet, and it is Cordain's premise that ALL humans ate this way until about 10,000 years ago, when agriculture began to be developed. The Paleo diet is what we should follow, not just because it is 'nicer' to the animals, or because it is less damaging to the environment, but because our bodies, and particularly our digestive systems, have not evolved sufficiently to our new diet to extract its nutrients efficiently. In other words, vegetable sources of protein, vitamins, and other nutrients, are in forms that our bodies cannot extract well, if at all. Indeed, according to Dr. Cordain, many vegetable products have "anti-nutrients", which block the absorption of many nutrients. Not only that, but many diseases of our modern world, like diabetes and Celiac disease, are completely unknown in the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies left in the world. I suspect that a veg diet is not the correct answer for the world.

rebecca donaldson
8/2/2010 12:41:51 PM

I find it somewhat irresponsible to publish an article as "The Truth" about anything and give no information about the author's education, research, or experience that qualifies him/her as an authority on the subject and no references in the article itself to substantiate any of its claims. This is an opinion piece only and should have been presented as such. There is no "truth" in this arrogant non-factual article. I am now disappointed and disillusioned in this entire publication.

8/2/2010 9:58:22 AM

As a relative newcomer to sustainable living practices ( including a more plant based diet, but not exclusively ), I find it amusing to see the vehement responses against the Keith article by the vegan/vegetarian contingent. Their tone of misguided moral superiority rivals that of the most ardent religious fanatic. While I oppose factory produced meat and poultry, I can accept that animals can be raised humanely for our consumption. Factory grown vegetables can also produce destruction of native animals and plants. This fact is conveniently ignored by the vegan fundamentalists. Plants AND animals raised biodynamically/organically should be our goal. Refuse to eat meat if you wish, but to assume all meat must be raised in a feedlot is absurd. Farmers like Salatin, et. al. of PolyFace Farms show a sustainable, humane way to raise cattle/poultry. Keith's article is a truth, however inconvenient.

7/28/2010 11:55:51 AM

M.E.N., I picked up your magazine while visiting a relative's house and was excited to read this article, which encompasses my own views on how to eat sustainably. This is the first time I have seen this point-of-view expressed in the media. Thanks for printing this article despite all the flack I'm sure you knew you would get for it. Additionally, I feel compelled to point out to your readers that 80% of the world's soybeans currently come from de-forested rain forests in Brazil. How sustainable is it to eat tofu shipped thousands of miles and grown where there should be rain forests, compared with my eating beef raised locally and that grazes on natural grasslands? One more thing, the fact that plants are not sentient does not mean they have any less inherent worth than animals. Life cannot exist without death so deal with it.

david mccartney_2
7/22/2010 3:51:02 PM

As soon as I read this article, I couldn't wait to see the responses. I got what I expected. A lot of very passionate people- mostly pro vegan. I have been a farmer in the central U.S. for 25 years and a 4th generation one at that. I find that most people have no clue as to where their food come from or how it is produced- even if it's organic. I have farmed conventionally and organically and have settled somewhere in between as sustainable. It is the least polluting and most profitable way to farm, in my opinion. As far as those who quote Biblical scripture about being a vegan, I would love to sit with you and compare notes. You obviously don't know the Bible very well. I have eaten meat and dairy my whole life and have been told by my Dr' that I am healthier than most men half my age. About not suppling food to the masses and the overpopulation argument, all famines are political. Period. This is fact. No nation who cares for it's citizens would let them starve and no developed nation would let another country starve to death. We CAN grow enough food. We can do it sustainably and to do it right means balance. This means we graze the fragile lands with livestock (to be eaten) and grow food for ourselves on the better lands. If this could be taught to all nations around the world, it would work. Until we solve politics, we will stay in the same mess we have now. Whether you choose to eat meat or not, others will have to or there will not be enough food for all.

richard crawford_2
7/22/2010 6:49:55 AM

The comments I see here are regarding ethics and cruelty, but that is NOT why I am a vegan. In fact, I am a vegan who doesn't mind if people choose to eat meat now and then, such as on special holidays. And most of the links below don't have a problem with that either. What kind of Vegan is that??? It is a vegan for the purposes of health instead of for animal cruelty. A "whole foods, plant-based diet" (which is very close to being vegan) consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes. It is very well established that such a diet cures type II diabetes, starves cancer, eliminates blood pressure problems, and if done properly, can totally eliminate your chances of getting a heart attack. It will help you with several other more serious autoimmune diseases such as MS as well! If eating meat made humans healthy I'd do it, but that is not the case. Please consider the following material: Doctors and real-world results of patients getting cured and off medicine: Academics: Athletics:

radical daddy
7/18/2010 9:56:23 AM

How on earth can such a biased, one-sided article possibly be titled "TRUTH" ?? This is pure Price "foundation" propaganda being regurgitated once again by individuals who sadly sold out to their vehemently pro-meat/dairy, anti-vegetarian agenda. This "foundation" (lobbyist group) is doing more to divide and create hostility between otherwise thinking/caring people, than most others in existence. Disgusting.

christopher hayes_2
7/15/2010 11:33:06 AM

Ah yes, that wonderfully scalable solution of "living off the land," as found in THE TRUTH. Were the 6.7 billion of us (or even a fraction of that number) to adopt this method of eating, we would succeed in globally wiping out any and all species large enough to be considered edible in about two hours, though I suppose we would simultaneously accomplish a good amount of the necessary human population die-off while we slaughtered one another in the woods in competition over our "food." A compassionate way of life indeed.

philip anderson
7/14/2010 12:35:38 PM

The article focuses on the utility of sustainably consuming matter for the operation and maintenance of the body, not taking into account the versatile and multi-faceted nature of the human being: spirit, love, discrimination and choice. Plants and animals are grouped together as one biomass for consumption and recycling in Nature’s renewing system. But there is a vast difference between plant and animal sentience, awareness - the ability to experience life, feel pain and pleasure, fear and joy, love and grief, which the animals feel. As pets, we enjoy their childlike innocence and purity. Indeed, in the Family of Life the animals are the Children, deserving of and requiring our protection and nurture. In any flesh-eating scenario there is the savagery inherent in the slaughter and eating of our fellow highly sentient beings. In the pastoral scenes why did the article not include pictures of slaughter and butchery? Was it because Mother Earth readers are not yet ready for the full kas-limaal, the “adult understanding” and acceptance of Nature’s harsh nutritional paradigm? Most of us would agree that love is the highest ideal, the highest intelligence, the greatest wisdom, the highest authority. If we think how that flesh gets to our plate, how can we think this has anything to do with love? Our revulsion from slaughter arises not from squeamishness or immaturity, but from the Universal Love native to our Heart. And we don’t have to eat them to live well.

philip anderson
7/14/2010 12:20:30 PM

The Vegetarian Diet supported by Natural Organic Agriculture is the only nutritional regime suitable for the New Human Ecology of the rising paradigm Sustainable Living and Earth Stewardship because it is the only regime that is benign and benevolent and that can sustain our numbers within the carrying capacity of the Earth. Natural Organic Agriculture: This is where our culture of the land mimics and is in partnership with the no-waste / no-poison, balanced renewable systems of Nature, including the recycling of human waste. Land tended this way becomes more fertile and the local ecology more abundant and robust, the more land is cultured. By our Organic Understanding, we literally speed up the building of rich soil and habitat by hundreds or thousands of years over the natural processes of soil evolution, thereby improving the life of all life forms. The exercise of this Organic Understanding, when guided by the Universal Love native to our Heart, constitutes the natural role of the human being in Nature and is called Stewardship of the Earth. The Vegetarian Diet: This diet produces up to 22 times more food on arable land than meat agriculture or untended “free-range” / “grass-fed” meat production so it can more efficiently feed us and more of us, and it is sustainable, health-giving, benign and benevolent when supported by Natural Organic Agriculture.

philip anderson
7/14/2010 12:12:58 PM

What others have to say about the Truths and Myths of the Vegetarian and Meat Diets: Henry David Thoreau: “I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other.” Paul McCartney: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Leo Tolstoy: "Thou shalt not kill does not apply to murder of one's own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai.” Mahatma Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Neal Barnard MD, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine: “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of the 20th Century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of "real food for real people" you'd better live real close to a real good hospital.” Thomas Edison: "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a Vegetarian Diet.”

philip anderson
7/14/2010 12:05:48 PM

Choices: We cannot feed our current civilization an animal protein diet using anything but factory farming supported by massive grazing and feed-plant agriculture, and using the advanced technology of high volume sea-animal hunting, but this is not sustainable. We can eat meat only if we reduce our numbers or dramatically decrease the amount of meat we eat. In any case the animal protein diet violates the life of our highly sentient fellow beings, degrades human health and destroys human life. We can keep Agriculture and our numbers, and so the boons of advanced civilization, only if we change our Agriculture to Natural Organic Culture of Plants in support of a Vegetarian Diet. The Vegetarian Diet is health-giving, benign and benevolent - it will enrich our health and prosperity and the Earth’s, without savagery. As the Paradigm Shift advances, with the Global Crises increasingly disrupting our lives and disestablishing the old ways, forcing us to adopt better ways, we have the wonderful opportunity, and the survival and moral imperative, to create a better paradigm in which Human Ecology is based on Organic Understanding and Universal Love, and this requires that we adopt the better way of the Vegetarian Diet with Natural Organic Agriculture, extending our nurture and love to all life forms. Why bring the scourge of the Meat Diet into this bright New Paradigm? The choice is clear: “The Joy of the Slaughterhouse” or “The Joy of the Garden”.

philip anderson
7/14/2010 11:59:07 AM

Do we really have to kill life to live? Actually most of the Vegetarian Diet does not require the killing of plant life because it entails the consumption of fruits, nuts, grains, legumes and vegetables which are naturally discarded by the plants for propagation. By consuming fruits and vegetables and by culturing new plants, we sustain the plants and they sustain us. We protect them, enrich their health and insure their propagation when we use Natural Organic Agriculture. This is a wonderful, harmonious partnership and, as anyone knows who has worked in the garden, a joyous one. This is not killing but an act of nurture and creation, mutuality and harmony - an experience not possible in the slaughterhouse or on the hunt.

philip anderson
7/14/2010 11:57:42 AM

The Big Picture: Paradigm Shift and the New Human Ecology We are in a Paradigm Shift - a fundamental change in the paradigms of Civilization and the Earth being driven by a family of Global Crises, principally Global Warming and The End of Fossil Fuels. Because these Crises were caused by wrong Human Ecology, their remedy lies in a New Human Ecology which the Crises are forcing us to create. The Old Paradigm was characterized by Organic Ignorance and Lack of Love, which resulted in most of the ecological ills we see in the Global Crises and much of the human and animal suffering of the past. The New Paradigm will be characterized by Organic Understanding and Universal Love and this will result in an unprecedented higher quality of life for all life forms, and a more beautiful Earth. The only human nutritional regime suitable for this bright New Paradigm and New Human Ecology is the Vegetarian Diet supported by Natural Organic Agriculture because this is the only nutritional regime that is sustainable for our numbers and that can be conducted In Partnership with Nature and in Harmony with the Heart - the natural expression of Organic Understanding and Universal Love.

philip anderson
7/14/2010 11:32:08 AM

The Meat Diet not only violates the life of our fellow highly sentient beings but also promotes human disease, being linked to the two top causes of death in the US - heart disease and cancer, and to other diseases (see the book “The China Study” by Dr. Colin Campbell, Cornell University). The Meat Diet also violates the Earth. Only factory-farming with its attendant grazing and feed-plant agriculture can produce the massive amounts of meat consumed today, but this human nutritional regime is destroying the Earth. "Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation." (2006 FAO report Livestock’s Long Shadow) Natural rangeland grazing will not solve the ecological and supply problem of our current meat consumption. Consider that the North American Great Plains which the article wants to see returned to natural prairie, at their height in 1800 supported about 40 to 60 million bison. Would this be sufficient for our meat demands today? In the year 2000, 157 million cattle and pigs (cattle 41.7 million, pigs 115.2) were slaughtered in the US. Natural Organic Agriculture of meat such as the grass-fed beef of more self-sufficient, organic producers like Polyface Farms, will not resolve this problem unless we vastly reduce our numbers or vastly increase the Vegetarian portion of our diet, leaving meat as a delicacy affordable only to the wealthy (and unhealthy).

philip anderson
7/14/2010 11:02:42 AM

Agriculture is required for large-scale, human cooperation and unity which make possible advanced civilization. We want the wonderful benefits of advanced civilization so we need to keep agriculture. However, the empowerment which agriculture and civilization have afforded human beings has sometimes been used for the destruction of the Earth and humanity. And to agriculture we could add other aspects of our current Human Ecology that have had negative impacts on all life: diet (particularly the flesh diet), energy (particularly the fossil fuels of the last 160 years), industry and our numbers. Agriculture and large civilizations are not inherently negative. It is the way we conduct our agriculture and use the empowerment of civilization that can make us a boon or a bane to the Earth and ourselves, that can make our civilization advanced or savage. It is possible, and indeed easier and more efficient, for us to conduct our life-support and life-style in such a way that Human Ecology is not only sustainable but also benign and benevolent, enhancing the greater ecology and improving the quality of life of all Life and the beauty of the Earth. So we need not give up Agriculture and Advanced Civilization to save the Earth and ourselves; we need only change how we conduct them. We are already seeing such a change for the better in a New Human Ecology taking shape in the expansion of renewable energy, organic agriculture and the Vegetarian Diet.

richard browne
7/13/2010 10:41:32 AM

As a former and returning reader of M.E.N. I am very pleased to see you publish an article such as this. As one who, some years ago, came to a painful understanding of the limitations of high grain vegetarian diets on our environment and on my own healing ability, I applaud you. I was impelled at one time to stop reading publications such as yours that promoted the view that the vegetarian way was best for us and for our planet. I must admit that I share completely the views of the author of this piece regarding the myths associated with vegetarianism and, after much searching, I think that the hunter gatherer approach to nutrition, in so far as it is possible at this time, is best for us and the planet we live on. I am pleased that your publication remains open-minded as new information surfaces about how best to support ourselves and nurture the Earth. With respect. Richard Browne

alex stauff
7/12/2010 4:14:21 PM (my pro-veg website, check it out!) For anyone who is skeptical, interested or just plain curious, feel free to see what my site has to offer!

sage blackthorn
7/12/2010 12:59:18 PM

Dear Green Mama, (continued) Salatin's farming techniques work WITH natural systems to produce food, requiring no pesticides or chemical fertilizers. No Lierre makes the claim that if all the farms in the North East United States used these techniques, not only would they be less expensive to run (wouldn't have to purchase chemicals and fertilers), they wouldn't contaminate rivers, lakes, and the water table, and would be sequestering enough carbon out of the asmosphere to offset that which is produced throughout the rest of the U.S., helping to reverse the negative effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. So if you're goal is Sustainability, then this article should've been interesting to you in that respect. However, if your goal is not to learn about sustainable living. If your goal is only to give yourself a warm fuzzy feeling by living in a way that you believe is less harmful to the environment, and this article calls that belief into question, then go ahead and cancel your subscription. As the author of the video "Skewed Views of Science" ( has pointed out: Reality doesn't mold itself around our beliefs. Our understanding must mold itself around Reality. When new information comes to light, we should welcome it in order to increase our understanding of how the world works. In the realm of sustainability, it is of paramount importance that we understand how our actions affect the world and not be afraid to question.

sage blackthorn
7/12/2010 12:45:24 PM

Dear Green Mama, If your goal in subscribing to Mother Earth News is to learn about Sustainable Living, then I would think that you would welcome new information and the opportunity to research and verify it as it is presented. As such, this article calls into question the sustainability of Agriculture "as it is practiced in modern society". If our goal is to live MORE SUSTAINABLY/LESS DESTRUCTIVELY and we are serious about it, then we have to at least have some basic knowledge about how our food is raised and how that process affects the environement we depend on for life. As I've mentioned multiple times already, this article is an excerpt from a book. Even if you don't agree with the author's claims about Vegetarianism or Veganism, the book also discusses the destructive nature of modern farming practices. Practices that destroy topsoil, require massive amounts of pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers. The author also points out that this is NOT the only way to raise food. Joel Salatin has been called "the high priest of organic farming" for his extensive use other techniques. He, as well, has written about his experiences. But guess what, just like Lierre, he points out that plants use nutrients from animals to grow. He points out that monocrops destroy soil fertility. So he raises cattle, fed on grass, as part of his crop rotation plan. As a result of reintroducing animals to his organic farm, he's actually building about 1 inch of topsoil per year.

green mama
7/11/2010 5:26:47 PM

This article is the second one this year making me seriously consider canceling my subscription to MEN. Not only does the author make ridiculous assumptions about vegetarians, but also makes equally ludicrous ones about how we'd all live if we went back to eating meat. I subscribe to your magazine because I like articles on sustainable living, DIY projects and green living. I have no desire to read Weston Price propaganda or anti-vegetarian idiocy. Lately it seems as if MEN is trying to court too many types of people at once, and is alienating someone different in every issue by pandering to someone else. Pick a personality and stick to it, please.

sage blackthorn
7/10/2010 4:14:33 AM

Thank you for commenting Christa, you've pointed out something important about The FDA. Something that was mentioned in the book was that when the U.S. Government was holding hearings on the Recommended American Diet (The high carb, low meat, low fat diet they teach us in school) many, many doctors, scientists, nutritionists, and researchers came out to testify AGAINST the proposed diet. So many in fact that Congress had to hold another 7 hearings to sort it out. Most of the controversy was caused by a research paper known as The Lipid Hypothesis, and unfortunetly it was shoddy research that was full of bias. One of the reasons that the motion about the Recommend American Diet passed was simply due to influence by lobbyists who worked for ConAgra, Monsanto, and other big agro-corporations who stood to make a significant profit if the sale of grains increased based on the recommendations. So yes, the FDA has been lieing to the American Public since about the 1950's. Claiming that a low fat/high carb' diet would be healthier for us. In the last 50 years however, the evidence tells a different story as chronic heart disease, diabetis, degenerative joint diseases, and early onset osteoporosis have been on the RISE since America adopted the recommended diet plan based on the Lipid Hypothesis.

brian boyarko
7/9/2010 4:19:30 PM

I'm a veg and I see no problem with using marginal land that would be difficult to cultivate for grazing animals. But this gal preaches Karl Rove-like spin trying to alleviate her inner guilt for becoming a carnivore! Look, if you want to eat meat, then have the guts to be able to walk up to good old Bessie the cow, look lovingly into her sweet, sentient, and peaceful eyes as you put a bullet through her brain. Then, slit her throat and hang her up by her hind hooves to bleed her out well. Then remove the gut sack by cutting her anus to throat and letting it fall out on the ground. Don't forget to harvest the usable organ meats, hide and bone, and blood and guts so that every part of the animal is used. Also, if you believe it is more sustainable for people to eat meat, you have a low comprehension for the process of energy balances.

brian boyarko
7/9/2010 4:19:01 PM

I'm a veg and I see no problem with using marginal land that would be difficult to cultivate for grazing animals. But this gal preaches Karl Rove-like spin trying to alleviate her inner guilt for becoming a carnivore! Look, if you want to eat meat, then have the guts to be able to walk up to good old Bessie the cow, look lovingly into her sweet, sentient, and peaceful eyes as you put a bullet through her brain. Then, slit her throat and hang her up by her hind hooves to bleed her out well. Then remove the gut sack by cutting her anus to throat and letting it fall out on the ground. Don't forget to harvest the usable organ meats, hide and bone, and blood and guts so that every part of the animal is used. Also, if you believe it is more sustainable for people to eat meat, you have a low comprehension for the process of energy balances.

christa lemons_3
7/8/2010 5:46:44 PM

I have read this article a couple of times and have tried to read all the comments. I am thinking the author did not bash vegans or vegetarians at all. I think she was trying to make the point of we are all screwed. When the Civil War ended and our country went to a Industrial basis we lost our sense of belonging to the earth and our sense of personal responsibility toward our own food. We are lined up in supermarkets like cattle to slaughter just to make dinner. Oh, for convenience sake we buy electric can openers and pop the canned veggies in the microwave. There are many reasons why we are so separated from our food sources. We have been led, literally by our noses to believe that whatever the FDA (or any other acronym group) says is good and right and all mighty. There are no quick answers and no good solutions. Less people would help, more responsibility in not only the food you eat, but in all aspects of our lives and to think of the bigger picture rather than just tonight's dinner might be a start.

t brandt
7/8/2010 5:26:34 PM

@ d ulrich: Your "facts" need a little checking. Obesity is directly correlated with carb (veggie) intake and indirectly correlated with meat intake. Gout is a genetic disease and only correlated with diet in old wives' tales. Humans are carnivores with the ability to use some plant food: we have canine teeth, well developed incisors and puny molars. While our jaws have some lateral mobility, they are not intended to masicate food that way. We have short intestines like other carnivores compared to, say, chimps which are half our size and have twice the intestinal length, commensurate with their diets (mainly vegetarian with the ability to digest some animal food). Our greater intelligence is associated with our hunting life style (it takes little brains to sneak up on grass)and the shorter periods of time needed to provide food by hunting (grazers/browsers spend most wakiing hours eating) allowed us to develope culture. I could go on. You have obviously formed an opinion first and then tried to state untruths in defense of your opinion.

l j jones
7/8/2010 10:39:58 AM

I confess that I did not read all of the comments. Nate hit the nail on the head when he pointed out we have "overpopulated the world". Because so few people recognize that, if we humans don't solve THAT problem, all of the other crises (how about polution?) we are faced with will never be eliminated. The fallacy of any proposed solution to the Earth's problems caused by humans is the statement in the article "...--vast systems of power that have to be confronted and dismantled." Which, has never happened to the degree necessary for this kind of change of our lifestyles. Most all humans have taken the basic animal instinct for survival to mean that it is their sacred right to conceive as many offspring as they choose. The bottom line is that we cannot get more than a very small percentage of people to agree on what the problems are, much less what needs to be done. Because of that, all signs indicate we are headed for global anarchy. This probably will not happen in your lifetime, but it will happen. Then the problem(s) of overpopulaton would be reduced: "Most of us would have no chance of survival if the industrial ifrastructure collapsed tommorrow."

kim anderson_2
7/8/2010 4:08:38 AM

Hope I didn't offend with the comment about Buddhism--just so annoying to read something so oversimplified, naive and flippant, like the author skimmed over just enough material to throw together this sort-of argument for eating meat. It seems disrespectful to everyone's intelligence and convictions.

kim anderson_2
7/8/2010 3:54:40 AM

I read this article a couple of times and could only conclude that the author made his/her decision to adopt a vegetarian diet with the assumption that it was a "cool" thing to do, or an attempt at rebellion, or begging for attention. Now, perhaps, she/he has met someone who has influenced his/her dietary choices with opinions defending a carnivorous diet. Perhaps the author is very easily led by this person, or really wants a date with them. And maybe she read a few lines of Buddhist philosophy about sadness and suffering in the world (sniff!) along with her Mayan epiphanies.I can understand that this would be offensive for those who have truly thought deeply about their diets and other choices they make concerning the resources they consume from this planet, as opposed to one who writes an inflammatory article that seems only to placate the author's own feelings about meat eating. I wonder if s/he is out there on the streets throwing sharp sticks at squirrels and wild ranging toads for dinner? I doubt it. As much as I doubt that the meat s/he is eating is coming from a personal grass fed utopian herd in the back yard.

sage blackthorn
7/5/2010 4:46:17 PM

It might be of interest to everyone to know that Lierre Kieth is NOT the first person to say that the human population of the earth has grown to large. I first heard this nearly 20 years ago from author Daniel Quinn in his books "Ishmael", "The Story of B", "My Ishmael", "Beyond Civilization", etc. etc. (you can see the entire list as From Daniel Quinn I learned about Alan D. Thornhill's work. Alan Thornhill, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Society for Conservation Biology. Previously he has been Director of Learning and Communications and Assistant Proffessor of Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University, Houston, Texas. He is actively involved in research exploring the ecological effects of human encroachment on natural ecosystems and the use of technology in education and communications. Daniel and Alan got together to give a lecture at Rice University that was filmed. It's entitled "Food Production & Population Growth" and shows how ever increase in food production is followed by an increase in the human population. Alan also explains how biotic communities relate to their environment, giving us the ABC's of biology in the process.

ryan t
7/5/2010 4:12:02 PM

For those who don't stick with one type of diet, "everything in moderation" is still a generally good motto. Many people eat far more animal protein than they need, and THAT is a problem when multiplied by hundreds of millions of people, just like inefficiencies in the use of fuel/energy are. It either takes concentrated resources to raise that much meat (often in ways that are greenhouse gas intensive), or it takes lots of potentially sensitive land. It's an especially big problem when consumers don't consider or don't care whether their food comes from an ecologically-minded regional operation or from a decimated Brazilian rainforest.

7/5/2010 10:15:29 AM

D. Ulrich's arguments have no basis in fact. Thank you Sage for posting. Well referenced explanation as to why vegetarianism is less healthy for individuals and the planet- Forms of vegetarianism Animal farming is an efficient use of land A fishy problem The killing of animals for food is not morally wrong We are not a vegetarian species Fossil evidence Fats and brain size Toxicity of raw vegetables 'Homo carnivorus' The diet revolutions The meat vitamin: B-12 Vegetarianism and militancy Vegetarianism - a form of child abuse But isn't vegetarianism healthier? Vegetarianism and coronary disease Vegetarianism and cancer Vegetarians and tuberculosis Vegetarians and Alzheimer's disease Vegetarians and salmonella How safe is soybean? Soy milk for children Soybean and cancer The vegetarian's dilemma Vegetarianism and the environment Genetic modification for vegetarians Animals and the environment Conclusion References The most important deficiency for the vegan is of vitamin B-12. By definition vitamin B-12 is essential to human life. It is essential for the synthesis of nucleic acids, the maintenance of the myelin sheath (the insulation around nerves which when damaged causes Multiple Sclerosis); indeed its presence or deficiency affects nearly all body tissues, particularly those with rapidly dividing cells. Without it we suffer from pernicious anaemia which, as its name suggests, is deadly, and a degeneration of the nervous syst

7/4/2010 9:32:20 PM

The purpose of The Vegetarian Myths is to educate. And because she loves vegetarians and their whole ethic, it is primally to educate them. IMO, there are three main points that she wants people to understand. First, humans have over populated the world. They have gone way past what the natural carrying capacity of the earth has for people. A corollary to that is that argiculture, especially growing grains, is what has allowed us to over populate our home. Second, agriculture destroys whole eco-systems. Whether you are growing grains for human or animal feed, the acres used to do that are cleared of nearly all other life forms to grow the grain. Yes, vegetarians require less destruction of our soil and depletion of our water. But, she just wants to make it clear that your vegan plate is not pure but is also bloody. We all are suviving on fossil fuel, fossil water and we've lost our topsoil. The corollary here is that we need to reduce our population by a factor of a thousand to get down to a population that can be sustained by the earth and still allow other species to also enjoy this earth in their own manner. Lastly, her experience is that a vegetarian diet isn't the healthiest diet. Having followed a similar path as her's, I agree. Besides our experiences, the evidence in the literature (especially, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes) that I've read is that a low carb diet is the best. Heck, even Andrew Weil has come over to the fat side

7/4/2010 4:24:57 PM

There are 4 reasons I can think of that people choose a vegetarian diet. health environment animal rights religion In terms of health, if you have decided to go do it, there is info on how to do go about it. As to the question of whether it is a good idea or what is more natural, I don't know where you would find unbiased information on that. But the govt and the American Dietic Association definitly say it is ok to do:

7/4/2010 1:15:57 PM

I won't go into the stats around this, such as: . -Producing a single hamburger patty uses enough fuel to drive 20 miles. . -To save 5 cents on a fast-food hamburger exported to the U.S., the earth's tropical rain forests are being bulldozed at a rate of 100 acres per minute, a rate which would destroy an area the size of Pennsylvania every year. Each imported 4-ounce fast-food hamburger patty requires the destruction of 55 square feet of tropical forest to create grazing and pasture lands. . -Overgrazing by cattle in arid and semiarid areas is a prime cause of spreading deserts in many parts of the world. Cattle production contributes greatly to all causes of desertification: overgrazing of livestock, over-cultivation of land, improper irrigation techniques, deforestation, and prevention of reforestation. . I just wanted to comment on how disappointed I was on the article's slant. . Phil Brooke, Puyallup, WA

clinton lee_2
7/4/2010 12:13:51 PM

I've read this article a couple of times and I've yet to discover the point... what is it? My wife has practiced a vegan diet off and on for about 15 years, mostly based on the belief that it's the most compassionate diet one can observe. I myself don't have the same ideological fortitude, but for the most part her belief is correct... undeniably so. The other issue that the article misses, but what really seems to be, in my opinion, the most logical reason to follow a plant based diet... and that's for health reasons. This is yet another undeniable fact that a plant based diet is a far healthier alternative to the standard American diet. So someone please tell me "The Truth About Vegetarianism", because this article didn't do it.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 3:37:43 AM

Found one more thing on the subject of Lactose Intolerance for anyone who's interested in the subject. "Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk and most dairy products and is broken down by the enzyme lactase, produced by cells in the digestive tract. At birth, all mammals produce the lactase enzyme and can therefore drink their mother’s milk without experiencing bloating, cramping or diarrhea. After weaning however, mammal infants stop producing lactase and prepare for an adult diet of raw meats, grass or other delicacies!! Originally, this was also the case for all humans. However, a few thousand years ago a mutation occurred in the lactase gene of one human ancestor that allowed him or her to continue to digest the lactose in dairy products into adulthood. This is why the trait is sometimes called “lactase persistence”. We do not know who this ancestor was, but it is likely that this person lived somewhere in Europe and belonged to a group that kept milk-producing animals The continued production of lactase into adulthood turned out to be highly advantageous, probably because it provided a rich and constant source of nutrition and fluid in groups that kept dairy animals. Individuals in such groups that did not carry the mutation seem to have been at a relative disadvantage, particularly at times when dairy products were the only nourishment available." You can read the rest for yourselves at the URL provided.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 2:34:14 AM

Now for those of you who have been following this little discussion between D. Ulrich and myself, what ever side of the debate you are one, you might want to check out these videos that I found on: The Dunning-Kruger Effect: The Illussion of Superiority: The Problem Of Openmindedness: and The Lost Art of Democratic Civil Debate: I would also AGAIN like to stress the importance of familiarizing yourself with THE BOOK from which this article is taken from. Which cites numerous studies and references by non-partisan scientists who don't have a vested interest in EITHER side of this debate, who's research has shown (enough to convince me for now [see the Problem of Openmindedness video]) that a diet high in fish, animal protiens, green leafy vegetables, and LOW in grains and carbohydrates is healthier than the suggested "Vegetarian/Vegan" diet. I've also found it self-evident that since agriculture of ANY TYPE necessarily has to clear land and plow up the soil to plant it's crops OR raise it's animals, then it is self-evident (to me at least) that it destroys habitat and damages ecosytems. What the book suggests as an alternative is to return the land to it's original eco-system, and gather WHATEVER FOOD GROWS THERE WITHOUT THE USE OF PETROLEUM BASED CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS OR MASSIVE IRRIGATION WHICH DEPLEATS THE SOIL

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 2:05:30 AM

Now far from making the fallacious point that since a single Sanskrit word for a conflict, or "war" translates to "desire for more cows", out of a list of 9 other words for "war" is significant. The fact that "Gavasti" is so closely linked with the acquisition of cattle shows only how important cows were in the culture, and not that cattle alone are the sole cause of war all over the world, but rather emphasizes what I've said about wars being fought over resources. One side has them and wants to keep them, the other side doesn't have them and wants them badly enough to fight about it. And I'm guessing that we're never going to see eye to eye or come to any agreement on the subject. So we might as well just agree to disagree. I think you're incorrect, and you think I'm incorrect. Which means this isn't really going to get us anywhere. The most we have accomplished is to present two opposing sides of an arguement, and we can let other's who read this make of it what they will.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 1:57:29 AM

Now the question arises of "How does a King acquire an Army to enforce his will?" He might inherit the position from his father. But that still doesn't tell us how his father before him acquired an army. Simply put, if you have something someone wants, you can get them to do what you tell them in exchange for it. It comes back to Wealth, money, plain and simple. If the king has all the wealth, and keeps it locked up, then everyone has to work for the king to be "paid". What does the king do to maintain his wealth and his army. He has to use that force to acquire MORE, i.e. expansion and conquest of his neighbors. If the culture's form of wealth is cattle, then the acquisition of cattle through force and violence is naturally going to lend that definition in that culture to an armed conflict "for a particular end". And if this article had been written in Sanskrit by a Vedic author, then the defintion of "War" as "desires more cows" might make sense. But it's in Enlish, written by an American, who is using a standard english dictionary for her definitions.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 1:47:48 AM

Now if we look back at the definition of "War" from the Mirriam/Webster Unabridged Dictionary Online that I posted earlier, we can note that the open and declared hostile conflict between states or nations for a particular end is known as "War". History shows time and again that such conflicts or "wars", are fought over political territory, wealth, or resources. In the Vedic society that you are granting so much esteem, cattle were the primary form of wealth, and as such were fiercly protected by a warrior caste who's sole purpose was the acquistion and protection of their societies form of wealth. You could exchange "gold", or "oil" for "cattle" in this scenario and you would still have armed conflict as opposing sides competed for resources. What is required to wage war is quite simple, you need a large population of highly trained, well-armed people who go out and enforce the will of their leader through the use of violence. What is a king without an army to enforce his will? Nothing but a windbag in fancy clothes. And note too that HOW and WHY civilized people wage war is drastically different from the reasons indigenous people fight. "War" seeks to defeat the opposing side primarily by wiping them out, conquering and assimilating or exterminating them. Reasons stated are often "to civilize the barbarians." While our tribal Hunter/Gather ancestors fought for defense of life and to protect the territories that provided them with food, shelter and clothing.

d. ulrich
7/4/2010 1:41:58 AM

Alright D. Ulrich, if you want to play the word game, we'll play. After doing a search online for the Sanskrit word meaning "war", here's what I came up with:... The Vedic Sanskrit word for war, gavisti, literally means "searching for cows", "desire for more cows" During the pastoral stage of the Vedic society, the main object of wealth was cattle. And your point is?

d. ulrich
7/4/2010 1:34:41 AM

"The only thing that I find ludicris is your ignorance of history, nutrition, biology, and knowledge of the fossil record which all CLEARLY show that our oldest ancestors were hunter/gatherers. That before humans developed the technology of growing their own food, they chased their food with stone spears what bullshit! early humans were herbivores and the fossil record proves it. The only records with animal remains associated with humans are in areas where fruits grains and vegetables were not present. "Lactose intolerance has NOTHING TO DO WITH EATING MEAT, but rather the inability to consume MILK, CHEESE, and MILK PRODUCTS such as Yogurt. I find that your statement that the majority of humanity is lactose "intolerant to be suspect at best, and flatly false at worst. Numerous cultures have consumed milk from the Mongol Herders of the Gobi Desert, to the Massai Tribe of Africa, certainly most of the western world consumes milk directly as well as in the form of cheese, cream and yogurt both by themselves AND as ingredients in complex recipes. Many cultures DEPEND on cattle, sheep, goats, for their milk to survive. How could they do this if they were Lactose Intolerant as you claim?" What crap, 80% of all africans are lactose intolerant, over 50% of Europeans are lactose intolorent. I will acknowledge that humans who are forced to eat an unhealthy diet for a many generations can develop a tolerence for the unhealty food. This does not mean that the food is not unhealthy

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 1:32:43 AM

Alright D. Ulrich, if you want to play the word game, we'll play. After doing a search online for the Sanskrit word meaning "war", here's what I came up with: अभिषेणयति { अभि- षेणय् } abhiSeNayati { abhi- SeNay } verb denom. war [ make war ] युद्ध yuddha n. war युध् yudh f. war संग्राम saMgraama m. war समर samara m. n. war आयोधन aayodhana n. war आहव aahava n. war रण्य raNya n. war अयुद्ध ayuddha n. not war The term Dharam Yudh literally translates into waging war for the sake of righteousness. The only references to "war" translating to mean "searching for cows" or "desire for more cows" have come from 2 humor sites, with no references or citations of their own, and from in their section on Language Curiosities: Cows and War The Vedic Sanskrit word for war, gavisti, literally means "searching for cows", "desire for more cows" During the pastoral stage of the Vedic society, the main object of wealth was cattle. The Kshatriyas (warrior caste) of every tribe had the function of not only acquiring cattle reared by other tribes, but also protect the cattle that belonged to their own tribe. Thus the Vedic word for war was gavisti which literally means "searching for cows". Kshatriyas are known as the protectors of cows. Gautam Buddha, was born a Kshatriya. Note that "Gavisti" is not in the original list, and in this context shows the importance of cattle to the society. They were dependant on cattle for their livelyhood.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 1:10:32 AM

D. Ulrich, The only thing that I find ludicris is your ignorance of history, nutrition, biology, and knowledge of the fossil record which all CLEARLY show that our oldest ancestors were hunter/gatherers. That before humans developed the technology of growing their own food, they chased their food with stone spears and picked it from wild, uncultivated forests and savannahs. You've admitted it yourself that humans are indeed predators when you said "those tribes over thousands of years adapted to a meat/fat diet". Lactose intolerance has NOTHING TO DO WITH EATING MEAT, but rather the inability to consume MILK, CHEESE, and MILK PRODUCTS such as Yogurt. I find that your statement that the majority of humanity is lactose intolerant to be suspect at best, and flatly false at worst. Numerous cultures have consumed milk from the Mongol Herders of the Gobi Desert, to the Massai Tribe of Africa, certainly most of the western world consumes milk directly as well as in the form of cheese, cream and yogurt both by themselves AND as ingredients in complex recipes. Many cultures DEPEND on cattle, sheep, goats, for their milk to survive. How could they do this if they were Lactose Intolerant as you claim? And have you forgotten that one of the defining traits of all mammals, from which they get their name, is milk-producing glands called Mammaries? A lactose intolerant mammal is highly unlikely to survive to adulthood to reproduce and pass that trait on to it's offspring.

d. ulrich
7/4/2010 1:09:44 AM

Sage Blackthorn said... Now as for the meaning of War, I'm sorry to tell you D. Ulrich, but your definition and Etymology are both incorrect: Well I guess that you will have to deal with the Indian subcontinent as the Sanskrit word for "war" means "desire for more cows." You can spout all the bull you want but the facts are the facts and you can not change them. They don't call it bloviating for nothing.

d. ulrich
7/4/2010 12:57:58 AM

Sage Blackthorn, it would be wonderful if you actually knew what you were talking about. Of course horses have canines. -from a website on equine dentistry: The horse, like most other mammals, have two sets of teeth during their life. They are born with one set of baby or decidious teeth (or get them from the age of a few weeks/months), and until a new and expanded set of permanent teeth replaces them gradually. In the full set of teeth in an adult horse each quadrant of the mouth contains 3 incisors, 1 canine, 1 wolf tooth (may or may not be present), 3 premolars and 3 molars. The presence of a canine tooth does not prove the species eats meat but only that there is a pointed tooth in the mouth which is equally as useful for piercing the skin of an apple as it could be for biting an animal if it was long enough to do any damage which a human or horse canine of course is not.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 12:54:04 AM

Now as for the meaning of War, I'm sorry to tell you D. Ulrich, but your definition and Etymology are both incorrect: Etymology: Middle English werre, from Anglo-French werre, guerre, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German werra strife; akin to Old High German werran to confuse Date: 12th century Definition: (1): a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations (2) : a period of such armed conflict 2:(A) a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism (B) : a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end. And I'm sorry to have to point this out, but you have your history backwards. Historically, from the beginnings of the Agricultural Revolution, farmers have been the ones pushing not just nomadic herders and pastoralists off their grazing land, but nomadic Hunter/Gather's out of their traditional territories. Fencing it off so they can plow it and plant it. This can easily be seen in the Westward Expansion of the European Settlers and Colonists in North America. A farming culture (Agriculturalists) who waged war against the indigenous tribes, all of whom were traditionally hunter/gathers, or Hunter/Gardeners with small cultivated plots of land that were suplimented by hunting. Consequently, one of the marked differences between native peoples and civilized peoples is the natives respect for wildlife. Many tribes professing a belief that other species are akin to siblings or cousins.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 12:37:52 AM

Next statement I question: Color Vision vs. Black/White Vision. This has very little to due with an organism's diet and more to due with when the creature is awake. As just about any high school student will with a life-sciences teacher worth their salt can tell you vision is a process of Rods and Cones. Rods are good for detecting light from dark, and work regardless of it being day or night. Rods detect color and work best in daylight. Nocturnal creatures, in general, have higher concentrations of Rods in their Retinas because it allows them to see better at night, in the low light of early morning and the failing light of dush and twilight. Creatures that are primarily active during the day tend to have better color vision. Another quirk of Rod-shaped light receptors in the Retina of the eye is that they detect movement better is low-light conditions. Cat's in particular, being nocturnal by nature, have developed a sensory adaptation for gathering the maximum amount of light at night. I'm sure everyone has noticed this: those reflective eyes they have. Light in a cat's eye is bounced back and forth giving their photo-recptors multiple chances to register. Now consider dogs (Canis Lupus Familiarus), descended from Grey Wolves (Canis Lupus), who hunted in the low light conditions under a forest canopy. Why do humans see in color? Because it was evolutionarily beneficial for us to do so. Many poisonous organisms tend to be brightly colored, if you can't see them, yer dead.

d. ulrich
7/4/2010 12:34:47 AM

Lastly, The idea that humans are predators is ludicrous. while it is true that some tribes who were forced into the northern climates where animals and fish were the only food sources available. And those tribes over thousands of years adapted to a meat/fat diet. This is not true of the majority of humanity. Most humans are lactose intolerant and ingesting meat causes most of the chronic diseases we are familiar with today, from cancer to diabetes, these diseases are directly linked to eating dead animals. Humans are designed to be herbivores and to the extent we are not we suffer the diseases caused by our unnatural eating habits.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 12:25:59 AM

Now, as for the statements about jaw structures of cats and dogs and humans... A cat has a short, fixed jaw. Allowing it to exert the pressure needed for a killing bite. A cat is a predator, and is defined as an "obligate carnivore". A cat REQUIRES animal protein for it's survival, but not because of it's jaw. It is the digestive tract that in large part determines what nutrients an organism can absorb. All obligate carnivores, carnivores, and scavengers, i.e. those who eat exclusively or primarily meat, have short digestive tracts in relation to the length of their body. Herbivores, and rumenants in particular have extremely LONG digestive tracts. Omnivores are blessed with digestive tracts somehwere in the middle, but nowhere near as long as a rumenant's. For example, the ratio of a sheep's body length to it's entire digestive tract is about 1:27. A dog's is abot 1:7, and a human's is 1:5. Consider also that while herbivors have molars, they are flat for crushing and grinding rather than ridged in any way like a human's. Carnivors and omnivors both exhibit Canine teeth in addition to Incisors and Molars, a feature absent from Herbivores in general. Canine teeth are one indication of a predator who has evolve to catch and consume meat. A short digestive tract is another.

sage blackthorn
7/4/2010 12:07:53 AM

I see also that D. Ulrich has made some statements that are highly debatable. To say that "Vegetarianism is the natural diet for humans," is to ignore not only medical research done for the last 70 years, that points to humans eating an omnivorous diet (think about think, our ancestors were not callaed "Gatherers", they were defined as "Hunter/Gatherers"), but also ignores archeaological evidence of the past and anthropological research of tribal peoples who are still eating their traditional foods (aka, their "natural diet) which includes fish and red meat as well as fruits, nuts, seeds, tubers, and wild greens. All prepared in specific ways to make them more easily digestable. Ever spent time with The Candoshi/Shapra Indians of South America? They routinely eat Land Tortoise, Monkey, and Tucan in addition to fish (most often caught by using a plant-based fish poison to stun the fish). Vegetables are "gathered", and in some cases such as harvesting Hearts of Palm, it is an exhausting process. Far more work than hunting. Then consider the Kombai Tribe of West Papua, also Hunter/Gathers. The list of native peoples who are still eating traditional foods goes on and on, and not a single one of them are "Vegetarians". So I think we can, in this light, confidently define Vegetarianism as "an extreme diet" and NOT, as has been stated "the natural diet for humans." Vegetarianism is a product of The Agricultural Revolution and not of natural selection by which humans evolved.

d. ulrich
7/4/2010 12:07:09 AM

And again lets continue, Lierre says... I believe that agriculture has created a net loss for human rights and culture: Slavery, imperialism, militarism, class division, chronic hunger and disease. Of course if you know that the word WAR literally means the quest for more Cattle and that it is herding cultures who historically have aggressively taken over agricultural societies. This is well documented when the hordes came out of the north and took over Europe in the middle ages. It is a short step from teaching children that animals are not your friends but something to be dominated. to those people over there are our enemy and are living on land we need for grassing. Certainly that is what happened in the middle ages in Europe. Even during that time the legends are clear. The peasants were eating a vegetarian diet while the lords were eating meat, and suffering from gout, obesity, and may other meat related diseases. Lastly Lierre says... If we choose to live in tune with nature, we won't be exploiting each other by eating. Instead, we will only be taking turns. This would be fine if we were competing in a carnivorous world. but the fact is we are not. Humans are not designed to eat dead animal carcass and to the extent we do it is detrimental to our health.

sage blackthorn
7/3/2010 11:16:53 PM

I see that the discussion is still going strong, which is good. I wanted to let everyone know of a new incident that I found out about involving Lierre Keith, the author of the book this article was excerpted from. Back in March, Lierre was invited to give a lecture at the Anarchist Book Faire in San Francisco, California. During her lecture she was assaulted by three masked individuals who threw pies laced with cayenne pepper at her face. They had someone in the audience to video tape the incident. You can see the videos on YouTube as well as a phone interview that Lierre gave in response to the assault. The interview: The entire incident reminds me of a quote from Paul Graham: "The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true." Cayenne pepper, in small doses, causes irritation and inflamation. This is the same "pepper" used to make Pepper Spray in 7%-15% concentrations. I've worked with 100% pure essential cayenne pepper oil at work, and at 100% strenght, it will cause blisters and chemical burns. This is not stuff you want in your eyes in any concentration. I guess Lierre really made someone angry by pointing out some of the damaging effects of a strictly Vegetarian/Vegan diet, which she supports in her book with plenty of research.

d. ulrich
7/3/2010 11:08:19 PM

Ok, lets continue, Lierre says... I want to know about all the species. Not just the individuals, but the entire species - the chinook, the bison, the grasshopper sparrows and the gray wolves. And I want more than just the number of dead and gone. I want them back. Of course the Chinook salmon is not affected by organic farming however runoff from animal factory farms is a factor. As is over fishing. Of course the Bison was driven to the edge of extinction not by agriculture by by over hunting. The Grasshopper Sparrow is not threatened because of wheat fields in which this ground nesting bird would be right at home, but because of animal agriculture which destroys its natural habitat. And of course the Gray Wolf which was driven to the brink of extinction not because of agriculture but because they posed a threat to herds of captive animals raised for food. None of these species are endangered because of organic vegetable farming. all are endangered as a result of animal agriculture, which is as everyone knows unsustainable. further Lierre says... We have no way to judge how much death is embodied in a serving of salad, a bowl of fruit or a plate of beef. I would venture a guess that a lot less was involved in a plate of salad than a plate of beef. especially because eating meat is detrimental to human health. This is easily confirmed by reviewing current nutrition research. Of course I am not talking about research promoted by the meat or dairy counsel.

d. ulrich
7/3/2010 8:15:17 PM

I would have enjoyed Lierre Keith's article, if it wasn't for the fact that so much of what she knows is not true. She starts off by referring to Vegetarianism as an extreme diet. The truth is that Vegetarianism is the natural diet for humans. Lets start here, open your mouth and move your jaw from side to side. Good, now look at your dog who is an omnivore and ask him to do the same thing. Your dog can not because he is designed to catch and eat meat. Any animal who is designed to eat meat has a fixed jaw which will not move side to side, because unless the jaw is fixed,the jaw can not exert the pressure needed to rip the flesh from dead carcasses . Even though your dog can eat grasses, fruits and vegetables and get nourishment from them. Your dog also can get nourishment from eating dead animal carcass which makes your dog an Omnivore. You do not have a fixed jaw which means that you are an herbivore like a horse or cow who's jaws also move side to side allowing you to grind grains fruits and vegetables as you chew. Ok, now look around you, do you see color? Good, the reason you see color is because you need to see color to identify ripe grains, fruits and vegetables. your cat can not see color because he does not need it to capture prey which being an obligatory carnivore your cat must do to survive.

7/3/2010 10:02:42 AM

How about we eat as nature intends, as we evolved to eat over the past 2 million years, instead of thinking we can do better than nature designed us? The Paleo Diet is a way of eating in the modern age that best mimics diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors - combinations of lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. By eating the foods that we are genetically adapted to eat, followers of the Paleo Diet are naturally lean, have acne-free skin, improved athletic performance, and are experiencing relief from numerous metabolic-related and autoimmune diseases.

mike crockford
7/2/2010 11:03:48 PM

I am new to Mother Earth, and I am appalled at the people who condemn this site for publishing an article. Any article. I would be disappointed if Mother Earth were to moderate articles and became one sided on any view or subject. Thank you Mother Earth.

7/2/2010 4:37:09 PM

I been trying for a couple of years to grow as much of my food at home as possible, and to do it while minimizing what I need to import. Worm bins and compost piles are a sorry substitute for animals to make a self sustaining farm go 'round. I've had a few dairy goats for about a year now, and finally nothing is wasted, my garden is productive, and my soil is better every season. I'm even using less and less water because the soil is better. And although I still purchase some food to get the variety I want, I do actually produce enough food to feed my family in a balanced and healthy way. This would be impossible on a small suburban lot without the dairy animals. Its a bitter sweet day when baby boy kids are born, knowing that they will likely become food, but its just a fact of a self sustaining (actually regenerating) system: If you want veggies, you need animals. And if you want milk, you get meat. This author's claims are obvious to anyone who has actually tried to make it work.

7/2/2010 6:27:50 AM

From the largest and most widely respected alternative health websites- Vegetarian Diet Increases Alzheimers Risk AND- Vegetarian Diet Can Cause Repeat Miscarriages- AND- The Naive Vegetarian - AND- Dr. Mercola's Comments: First let me state that I am a major fan of vegetables. They are, without question, one of the keys to staying healthy. I also believe very strongly that most should be eaten as unprocessed and as close to raw as possible to maximize their amazing healing properties. In my three decades of taking care of patients I have seen many individuals that held some rigid beliefs that prevented them from eating any animal proteins. For some it was rooted in spiritual beliefs or a strong aversion to killing animals. I respect an individual's freedom to choose what foods they will eat, but it has been my impartial observation that many of these individuals were chronically sick and never improved their health because they were missing essential nutrients that could only be obtained from animal foods. Changing your dietary habits is indeed a good thing, but avoiding meat and animal protein, in my observations, just isn't the healthiest choice for about two-thirds of people. Your body has a unique nutritional type and each type benefits from varying ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to feel great and avoid chronic degenerative diseases, like those associated with obesity. About two-thirds of people (protein and mixed types) require regular amounts of animal-based protein to achieve optimal health. However, about one-third of people's health will actua

7/1/2010 7:51:01 PM

"It's bad enough that meat eaters love-to-hate vegetarians, but now we have to be attacked by ex-vegetarians." Amen.

sage blackthorn
7/1/2010 6:13:44 AM

@Leslie Strovas Well, the connection between a vegetarian/vegan life and the ecological damage done by agriculture is quite simple to see really: If a farm that grows your vegetables is using practices that destroys the environment, then by buying your vegetables from that farm you are supporting the damage it does. Consider that at one point every farm was originally wilderness that was habitat for a number of species. In the East, that was forests that were cleared. In the Great Plains, it was prairie that supported Bison, Deer, and a number of predators that fed on them. Wherever land has been cleared and plowed to raise food, a habitat has been destroyed and an ecosystem damaged. For all but the last 10,000 years or so, human beings obtained their sustenance from the land as it was, without needing to clear it for cultivation. I.E. without having to destroy habitat and damage entire ecosystems to feed themselves. So if your goal is to live as harmlessly as possible, then supporting a system of agriculture that destroys habitats and entire ecosystems is counter productive. Homesteading is one option for producing a sustainable local food supply.....if it's done properly (which Lierre also talks about in her book). Habitat Gardening, Forest Gardening.....basicly trying to mimic the ecosystem of a mature, healthy native habitat that builds topsoil instead of destroying it with fertilizers and over-irrigation is far preferrable to the current food production method

leslie strovas_2
6/30/2010 12:52:40 PM

Like many others who posted here, I don't see the connection between vegetarianism/veganism and Ms. Keith's statements about the unsustainability of our current agriculture practices. Every Veg knows it's impossible to live a "pure" do-no-harm life but we do the very best we can. You will not find a more conscious and aware kind of human being than your Veg neighbor who thinks about the ecological, spiritual, political and social impact of every single thing in their lives. It is precisely this consciousness, founded in compassion and connectedness, that helps us understand we live in an imperfect world and sometimes the only choices available lay between two evils. Take lifesaving medications that contain animal products or, worse yet, are tested on animals as an example. We can not judge one another but only encourage even the smallest steps towards healing and wholeness. In fact, the imperfection only points us to a higher and greater vision and invites us to act in the name of those passions which inflame our hearts. Ms. Keith, your passion is obviously the well-being and healing of this planet and I intend to read your book (when it's available at my local library) because I am interested in learning more about your ideas around sustainable agriculture/husbandry. Nevertheless, you have not persuaded me that I live from a "myth", imperfect as it is.

t brandt
6/29/2010 6:28:37 PM

It's nice to see so many emotional comments on both sides of this subject, but here's a little science: an acre of good corn will produce about 33% more calories (not all bio-available to humans) than an acre of good pasture used to raise cattle, but only half the protein- and that's using highly petroleum-dependent methods to produce the corn. The figures are even more lop-sided in favor of cattle when compared to rice or beans- and one needs a combination of corn, rice & beans to obtain complete protein for humans. And also consider that "organic" ag techniques only gives you about half the yield used for these calculations. Health benefits of veggie diet? None compared to eating meat(chol levels are actually lower on a hi pro/lo CHO diet compared to lo fat or restricted calorie diet). And if you're a diabetic, it's extremely hard to achieve control as a vegetarian.

6/27/2010 3:34:13 AM

Wow, this article caused quite a commotion! Without reading the entire book, it's hard to say for sure what myth or truth the author was getting at. I believe she was pointing out that a diet or way of life so long to be held in high standards may not be what all it was thought to be. I don't believe one diet is better than another one and I think it's something really stupid to fight over. The author makes great points about large scale farms, weather animal or vegetable, being unsustainable. Most people now days don't know where their food comes from, but that is not the fault of a diet, but the fault of our society. I applaud MEN for enlightening the ignorant. I stumbled across the website when I was looking for info on gardening and I have been an avid reader every since and will continue for a good long while. Had I not stumbled across the website I would still be ignorant of the problems inherent in large scale "farming". Now I dream of the day I can become a homesteader for real and grow my own meat and veggies! Keep up the good work MEN!

sage blackthorn
6/23/2010 2:34:32 AM

@Jenny Hall Now this is really interesting! In America, we have a different climate over-all than in the UK. Before the Settlement of North America by European Colonists, much of the eastern continent was covered in forest. The forest gave way to The Great Plains in the middle of the country, with sparse patches of woodlands. The North West of the continent consisted of ancient woodlands (think Sequoia National Forest with 500+ year old trees). While the Southwest was primarily hot and arid (desert). I know from studying history that "cows" are not actually native to North America (if I remember correctly), but like horses were brought to The New World with the settlers and colonists. Our native ruminants were the Buffalo, Elk, Moose, and various species of Deer, which are more adapted to surviving in the Forests or Prairie eco-systems than Cattle are. Now a extreme example of how damaging a foreign species can be to an eco-system can be seen in Africa with cattle over-grazing the Savanah. One solution to this problem has been to encourage Game Ranching over Cattle Ranching. If people feel the must raise animals for meat, then it is far preferable to raise native species that are better adapted to their environment than a foreign species that isn't. Perhaps we in America would do better to stop ranching beef cattle, and start ranching Buffalo and Deer for our meat? This would also encourage the preservation of old habitat and the creation of new habitats for them.

jenny hall _5
6/22/2010 2:55:29 PM

The cows eating grass argument is an interesting one from a climate change perspective. In the UK there are various grades of land grade 1 and 2 are generally perceived as arable, grade 3 onwards only suitable for livestock. However, with rising world populations we need to get the maximum calorific value of food from the least land & no fossil fuel. Therefore on grade 3 land orchards, nuts and soft fruit in a layering effect feed people better. We also have to feed people directly from arable land so an immediate monotorium on feeding grain to livestock which is standard practice in western countries even if Lierre likes to pretend otherwise. Then if we move to the biogenic GHG nitrous oxide and methane are more important in agriculture. It is nonsense that livestock cause never ending carbon sequestration in permanent pasture. It is a time limited thing so in the UK where land was cleared for grazing centuries ago our time is up. Nitrous oxide is caused by enriching the nitrogen cycle and so therefore we have to limit our nitrogen enhanced environments which grazing on lower grade lands does. We have to let it return to nitrogen limited / climax type vegetation which can either be forests or deliberately planted useful trees like willow. Nitrogen enrichment is as much as a problem as carbon dioxide GHG. Nitrous oxide is an incredibly powerful feedback loop and if we carry on allowing improved pasture / grazing land everywhere we are spelling our own planetary downfall.

sage blackthorn
6/19/2010 12:06:50 AM

@Andy(continued)--- fencing was the solution to animal death!" There, you are free to read on the web-site. Based on my own past experiences with this time of fanatical type of vegetarian I don't doubt this tale for a moment. I'm quite sure that having posted all this, I'm going to draw the wrath and righteous indignation of this same group. I fully expect that I'll be acused of being some kind of heretic, of being cruel and insensetive, of attacking vegetarins..... like I said, I've run into people like this before, I know how they operate. Rather than debating issues with facts and research they cite moral superiority. It would not even surprise me of being acused of being "Meat-ist" or of being a "Carnivor-ist".....because just about everytime someone calls you an "-ist" of some type, you can be sure they are trying to force you into defending yourself instead of spending your time and thoughts thinking about the issues.... and I'll cite a source for that too: An essay by Paul Graham on the dangers and benefits of looking under rocks, not being bound by conformity, and in general the benefits and drawbacks of being a "Heretic" called "What You Can't Say" (Http:// To tell the truth, it really doesn't matter to me if the article is an attack on vegetarians or not. The issues it raises about farming practices, habitat destruction, and ecology, to me, are more important than whether or not the beliefs of vegetarianism are a myth or not.

sage blackthorn
6/18/2010 11:55:22 PM

@Andy(continued)--- There is also an element of arrogance within the belief that EVERYONE should be vegetarian. In some cases there are extremist vegetarians (and yes, I've met a few of them over the years) who are convinced that not only should all HUMANS become vegetarians (and those who don't are just evil and enjoy causing suffereing), but that all ANIMALS should be vegetarian (like the lady with the 3 starving cats). Another story, which Ms. Keith relates (on her website where the first 14 pages of her book are available to read for anyone) is that after she stopped being Vegan, she began to read a lot of Vegan/Vegetarian internet discussion forums. In one thread, and I'll quote (from,:"But one post marked a turning point. A vegan flushed out his idea to keep animals from being killed—not by humans, but by other animals. Someone should build a fence down the middle of the Serengeti, and divide the predators from the prey. Killing is wrong and no animals should ever have to die, so the big cats and wild canines would go on one side, while the wildebeests and zebras would live on the other. He knew the carnivores would be okay because they didn’t need to be carnivores. That was a lie the meat industry told. He’d seen his dog eat grass: therefore, dogs could live on grass. No one objected. In fact, others chimed in. My cat eats grass, too, one woman added, all enthusiasm. So does mine! someone else posted. Everyone agreed"---

sage blackthorn
6/18/2010 11:45:42 PM

@Andy(continued)---damage that current the predominent farming practices are doing: Mono-cropping, destroying forest and prairie habitat, fencing off land which disrupts seasonal migration patterns of herd animals....... Instead, people have been trying to distract from the issues raised by the article. Saying that it's attacking Vegetarians, calling the author names, claiming her sources are invalid or non-existant (which as I said before, are likely listed in her book, and people should READ the book, find the source and THEN instead of simply declaring those sources invalid, present counter sources/arguements of their own...preferrably from a credible, respected and hopefully a fair and impartial third-party research group,) claiming that Vegetarians are in some way "morally superior" to non-vegetarians..... The "myth" has been quite simply stated in the article: [myth]That all the world's ecological problems will disappear if everyone would just stop eating meat[myth]. Now even a mildly observant person should realize that based on what has been said about unsustainable and damaging farming practices (farms grow the vegetables), if EVERYONE in the world eats nothing but vegetables WITHOUT CHANGING THE FARMING PRACTICES then the damage will only grow exponentially as farms try to keep up with the demand for their product. Keep in mind that we're now talking about a world population of 6.8 billion people and that a great many areas of land are unsuitable for farming.---

sage blackthorn
6/18/2010 11:29:53 PM

@Andy(continued)---cats to the Vetrinarian because they were extremely sick and thin. Turns out the woman was a vegetarian and she decided that all her pets should be vegetarian as well and she wouldn't feed them ANY animal products. The Vet' told her that cats are carnivores and that their bodies "require" meat to live. Well, she didn't like that, and took her cats home where they died of malnutrition. The Vet suspected that she had killed more than just those 3 cats based on her apparent ignorance and delusion that she could MAKE her cats be vegetarians, and her shock and dismay when it didn't work. This second group of vegetarians that I've had to deal with over the years are like religious zealots. Anything contrary to their beliefs is attacked, rideculed, derided. The speaker, author, film maker, or web-site is protested against, boycotted, accused of being, for lack of a better term, a "Heretic" in an attempt to "silence the infidel" who dares speak out in opposition. Doesn't matter if the person is just some nobody from the middle of B.F.E. or a respected Professor of Evolutionary Biology, or a Medical Doctor, or someone with a PhD. in Ecology....if they so much as insinuate that the Holy Doctrine of Vegetarianism/Veganism might not be based on scientific research, but on belief....they are attacked..... just like people have been attacking this article as being "Anti-Vegetarian" rather than debating the various issues the article discusses like the ecological---

sage blackthorn
6/18/2010 11:16:30 PM

@Andy I was specifically steering clear of the vegan/vegetarian comments for a number of reasons. But if you want to know my thoughts on it, I'll write them down. There are some people I know who choose a vegetarian diet for health reasons. They don't get offended, defensive, or aggressive with people who choose to eat meat. They just say it's not the best health choice for themselves. They don't attack other people for their diet choices. I tend to get along with those with an "each to his own" attitude. They don't constantly harangue people for eating meat, they don't walking into a Sizzler or an Outback Steakhouse and accuse the diners of being murderers, and they don't gather in large numbers to throw red paint on the next group. Then there are people who treat vegetarianism like a religion. Their choice to be vegetarian is often based not on health reasons, but on a moral conviction that killing another living creature for food is a bad thing (although they will say they are healthier for not eating meat EVEN when they begin to suffer from early osteoporosis from lack of calcium in their diet, or degenerative joint disease, muscle wasting, or any number of illnesses associated with improper diet and a lack of adequate protien) They crusade in the name of saving "the animals" from the terror and horror of being killed and eaten. They seem to refuse to acknowledge basic scientific truths.... like a woman I recently read about who took her three----

6/18/2010 10:14:49 AM

For people interested in this subject, I strongly recommend another Mother Earth News article as well, The Amazing Benefits of Grass-fed Meat, by the environmental journalist Richard Manning: Among other things, Manning talks about the fact that high-yield crops such as corn and soy release about 1,000 of CO2 per acre, before transportation and farm equipment is even factored in, but sustainably pastured cows actually sequester carbon at roughly the same rates. He points out that if we converted just one half of the soy and corn acreage in the US to sustainable pastureland, that would sequester about 144 trillion pounds of CO2, which is more than every vehicle on the planet combined. I thought that this quote from the article spoke volumes: "Over the years, organic farmers have told me they relearned this important point: Many found out the hard way that they could not make their operations balance out — both biologically and economically (they’re the same in the end) — without bringing animals back into the equation. Handled right, animals control weeds and insects, cycle nutrients, and provide a use for waste and failed crops. Healthy ecosystems — wild and domestic — must include animals. Now there’s a chance we may realize how very important this idea is to the life of the planet."

6/18/2010 9:52:16 AM

@Sage, I haven't read anything by Daniel Quinn, but it sounds like very interesting stuff.

6/18/2010 9:48:45 AM

@Andy, actually, one single cow could easily meet the primary protein needs of an entire family for a year. It could meet the primary protein needs for an adult for about 6 years. Eating an omnivorous diet that includes sustainably pastured ruminants, instead of an all-plant diet, will always be a far more environmentally sustainable choice in most regions of the country. A mountain of research shows that sustainable pasturing massively increases biodiversity, exponentially increases soil vitality, greatly increases wildlife habitat, prevents water runoff, and reverses desertification. Conversely, even the best forms of agriculture with realistic yields massively decrease biodiversity, leach the soil, obliterate animal habitat, and cause severe water runoff and soil erosion. Lierre Keith certainly doesn't hate vegetarians. She profoundly empathizes with their goals, and says so quite eloquently. She was a vegan for two decades herself, but as she learned more about the realities of sustainable farming, she had to come to terms with the fact that animals are an essential part of sustainable food production, which must mirror the natural balance of microorganisms, plants, and animals in a given ecosystem. I have honestly been amazed at how many former vegan farmers that I have come across, that changed their ways and are now permaculture farmers because they learned the essential importance of animals in agriculture through experience.

6/18/2010 1:17:27 AM

Sage wrote: "What Ms. Keith is saying is that rather than destroy habitat to farm grain to feed cattle, it is FAR LESS DAMAGING FROM AN ECOLOGICAL STAND POINT to restore the original habitat and allow the cattle to graze." Bingo. Let's go ahead and do that, and then everyone will be a de facto vegetarian, due to the scarcity and cost of meat. Google tells me there are 7 acres of land in the USA per inhabitant, but only about 1 acre of crop land. Can you live off a half-cow for the whole year? Sage, in your multi-part answer to Ceallaigh you make a lot of good points about how we could have a better world, and you seem to think they are the same points as Lierre. But in nothing you say is there reason to "blame" the vegetarians, or reveal a "truth" about them. Actually, nothing you say has anything to do with vegetarians or vegans. Alex said it too: "I don't believe either way is "better." They're just different." Except that's not what Lierre said. She said one was worse, or she seemed to say it at first, or she just slapped on the title to get readers. That was inflammatory and unnecessary. And I find it kind of sad that many people in the comments had never thought about the problems of mono-culture and industrial farming, and they learned about it in an article that advertised and pretended to put down vegetarians. In any case, I was happy to see that those who are commenting are thinking positively and not bashing the vegetarians anymore.

sage blackthorn
6/17/2010 10:37:31 PM

@Entopticon (continued) --the Dalai Lama's doctors have told Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet....a man who advocates vegetarianism and not harming any animals, that he MUST eat some meat in order to stay healthy. I agree that people these days seem to eat TOO MUCH meat in their diet. They also eat to much other crap and then wonder why they are getting sick. They also lead far more sedentary lifestyles than our ancestors did and, on average, don't get enough exercise. And there are more people on the planet living this way than ever before. I think the global population just hit 6.8 billion not long ago. The world (and when I say "the world" I mean the world as a place where humans can live) can deal with a small percentage of people living destructively (destroying habitat and entire eco-systems to make farms to provide them with food), but it can't withstand the majority of people doing that. So if our the majority of our farms are harming the environment to produce our food, and that environment provides us with the living conditions we need to survive, then we're kinda slitting our own throats by continueing to farm like we have for the last 50 or so years. Which is why I put the links to those videos up, they show a different way to raise food that is far less destructive than how it's being done now. Just out of curiosity, have you ever read any of Daniel Quinn's books?

sage blackthorn
6/17/2010 10:12:17 PM

@Entopticon(Continued)-- photovoltaic panels so they could charge under the sun while traveling between Habitat Farms and the city grocery store. We know from the history of the EV-1 that electric vehicles are cleaner and require less maintainance than gas-fuel vehicles. Replacing our lawns with food producing gardens would go a LONG way to not only reversing the ecological damage of the factory farms, but would also reduce our dependance on having food trucked or flown in from out of our area. I'm a big fan of Daniel Quinn's books, such as Ishmael, The Story Of B, My Ishmael, and Beyond Civilization. As he says, "If the world is to be saved, it will not be saved by old minds with new programs. If they world is to be saved, it will be saved by new minds and no programs at all." Meaning that we can choose to continue living destructively as the majority of people on the earth are now and likely kill ourselves off. Or we can choose live in a way that is less destructive. People keep going off about how if everyone became vegetarian, the world would be saved, everyone would be healthier, live longer, blah, blah, blah.... Yet they are missing a very important point that if their vegetables are being grown in a way that damages the environment, then having everyone on a vegetarian diet without changing how their food is grown is going to make the damage grow exponentially. They are also ignoring the simple fact that not every human being can adapt to a vegetarian diet. Even--

sage blackthorn
6/17/2010 9:53:11 PM

@Entopticon I'm glad you liked the videos, sorry I got the wrong URL for the fish one. :D I was very excited to see two places that were producing food by working with nature instead of against it. I was ecstatic to hear that the fish farm in Spain was not only so well balanced that it didn't need ANY feed for the fish, but also that it purified the water from the river that feeds it and has become a major bird sanctuary habitat. THIS is the kind of farming that I think everyone needs to switch over to and I think this is exactly what Lierre Keith is talking about when she says it is less destructive to raise grass-fed cattle than grain-fed cattle. This same concept is embodied in Forest Gardening, where a garden produces food while mimicing the eco-system of a mature forest. This idea could be dubbed "Habitat Gardening", and if it works on a small scale, say in a backyard, and in Spain we see it working on a larger scale, I see no reason why it can't replace our current food production system. It's more efficient, requires minimal effort, is not dependant on chemical fertiliers, and as the fish farm shows, it can actually clean the environement and reverse the ecological damage that's been done by Factory Farming (whether that farm raised cows or corn, it's still producing food by destroying the habitat that was there before it.) Switching over to clean vehicles to transport food (say Electric Trucks, charged on solar power. Heck we could even cover the tailers with-----

6/17/2010 7:46:32 PM

@Sage, thank you so much for pointing me to those Dan Barber TED talks. I have been meaning to watch them. Really amazing stuff. I think you accidentally didn't link to the fish one:

6/17/2010 4:41:47 PM

@Paul, I agree that many areas would benefit from reforestation, but studies actually show that in many cases, sustainably pastured grasslands actually have more biodiversity and sequester more CO2 than forest. Not sure what you meant by your contention that most perennial grassland is annual grassland. I am guessing from your post that you didn't get a chance to look at the article about some of the myths about overgrazing and the importance of holistic land management that I linked to. I agree that cattle must be moved to mimic natural herding patterns, but the natural pattern of grazing that grasses co-evolved with is actually quite intense. Operation Hope has demonstrated that it takes managed, intensive pasturing, not the idyllic image of a few cattle speckled on the hill, to make the ecosystem thrive. As a matter of fact, Holistic Land Management and Operation Hope have had the most amazing, dramatic success in completely reversing desertification in arid lands. A recent study of 43 sustainable ranches in 3 Western states showed great success across the board. And in the arid savannas of Africa, their results have been nothing short of miraculous. They are cogently overturning myths about overgrazing in arid environments, and starting a truly ecological brown revolution. This video on the subject is profoundly moving:

6/16/2010 3:37:25 PM

I love that this article points out something that few people think about. The modern commercial farm that grows a single crop (monoculture farming) is not sustainable. It is dependent on commercial chemicals herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. I'm not saying all of the farms are this way, but as a majority the commercial farms are. I am extremely lucky to have access to organically sustainably grown foods in my area and to have land to grow my own food. If this article accomplishes nothing more than helping people think consciously about where ALL of their food comes from it is successful regardless of the authors intentions.

6/16/2010 3:20:10 PM

I love that this article points out something that few people think about. Modern monoculture agriculture is literally killing our planet. The modern commercial farm that has been growing a single crop for several years (monoculture farming) is dependent on commercial chemicals both herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers and they are stuck in this cycle because the chemicals are killing the beneficial insects and micro-organisms as well as the less desirous ones. They are dependent on fertilizer by growing only one crop and not allowing the earth to rest. I would love to see a more sustainable attitude brought to agricultural practices. A realization of what the continual tilling, fertilizing and chemical applications do to our planet. Living in the Pacific NW there are lots of smaller, sustainable, organic farms that rotate crops and avoid monoculture farming. I am extremely lucky to have access to this and to have land to grow my own food. If this article accomplishes nothing more than helping people think about how their vegetables were grown it is successful. I don't think being vegetarian or vegan is wrong, I think the lack of awareness is wrong.

6/16/2010 12:21:25 PM

This article feels like it exists so the author can pontificate. My wife is a vegetarian. I am not. I have cleaned, butchered and eaten the deer I've shot while hunting. Those deer didn't have to die so I might live. Is venison the optimal fuel source for humans? If I eat a venison steak, and I eat a salad, the former will make me more tired and take longer for my body to break down into its nutritional components usable by my body. The salad will break down into energy I can use now. As for health effects etc. I recommend you read "The China Study". You won't find generalizations, but evidence of a study with scientific results. This article is as bad as a political one... might as well be called "The Republican Myth" and then cop out that neither side is perfect once you read it. I'll take scientific evidence over generalizations to make a point.

alex mckenzie
6/16/2010 9:11:21 AM

While the author is, perhaps, somewhat absolutist and strident, she has a good point. Neither animal nor plant food products are being raised sustainably, but that doesn't mean they can't be. Both can. Not too many issues ago, in this magazine, there was an article about grass fed beef, which points out that it takes about two acres to raise a cow for beef, regardless of whether they're grass-fed or corn-fed. That much grassland cannot be used as cropland and still kept as prairie (or even approximate prairie), so it seems that growing beef on the land is more practical than growing crops on it. Some of you will now argue that we have to factor in transportation. Ok, let's do that. Meat raised in the prairie states has to be transported. Fact. So does grain, soy, or any food going into a city, or are you planning to grow enough food in New York City to feed the population? But, to be fair, you could probably grow enough food in upstate NY to feed the population of the city during the summer, as long as everyone was willing to eat a lot more simply than they do, and a lot less than they currently do. Winter would be a problem, though... lots of things don't store well, so food in the winter would be even more limited. Do you think people would accept that? Pastured beef, goats, or chickens can be raised almost anywhere food crops can, although in smaller quantities, so let's call that even. I don't believe either way is "better." They're just different.

sage blackthorn
6/16/2010 12:31:14 AM

@Ceallaigh, (continued) Another very LARGE aspect of the problems involved with food production is the DISTRIBUTION AND SHIPPING INFRASTRUCTURE used to get the food (whether it is meat or vegetables) to the consumer. Trucks and aiplanes that run on some form of Oil (gas, diesel, jet fuel, etc.) dump many tons of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere to transports our food from farm to grocery store. We then drive our cars (on gas usually) to the store to buy the food that's been packaged in plastic(made from oil) or metal(strip mined destroying habitat, smelted down which puts more carbon and smoke particle in the air) and/or paper/cardboard, and sometimes treated with preservatives (i.e. chemicals) to give it a "shelf-life" so it doesn't spoil before the consumer can obtain it. Not to mention all the human effort that goes into harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting our food. The entire system is extremely wasteful and inefficient. I also see NOTHING in the article where Ms. Keith is advocating what you called a "meat-based diet". What she IS advocating, thus far from what has been presented, is a LESS ECOLOGICALLY DESTRUCTIVE FORM OF FOOD PRODUCTION than what is currently being practiced. I suggest that you actually read the book before bashing it. I've already ordered a copy myself to review, as what has been presented thus far has piqued my interest.

sage blackthorn
6/16/2010 12:03:32 AM

@Ceallaigh (continued), this is also the SAME technique described by Dan Barber in the two videos I posted URL's for earlier this week. (Does anyone bother to read what I post around here?) As you put it yourself in your reply: "the current state of animal agriculture demands the support of an enormous grain agriculture infrastructure." This is precisely what returning to a "grass-fed" infrastructure would solve. Turn the farmland BACK into a Prairie eco-system (or in many cases in the east, turn the farms BACK into forests), and allow the animals to graze naturally WITHOUT HAVING TO IMPUT MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF GRAIN INTO THE SYSTEM TO FEED THEM. The future of agriculture and sustainable food production will be in systems that are self-regulating and do not require massive infusions of energy, fertiliers, chemicals and effort. In short what these people are seeking to do is restore land back to it's original state BEFORE it was torn up and destroyed to make it suitable for factory farming. What Ms. Keith is saying is that rather than destroy habitat to farm grain to feed cattle, it is FAR LESS DAMAGING FROM AN ECOLOGICAL STAND POINT to restore the original habitat and allow the cattle to graze. Just as it is far less damaging to grow vegetable through the use of systems that mimic a natural eco-system which is self-regulating, does not need chemical fertilizers, and only requires human intervention when it's time to harvest (aka To Gather).

sage blackthorn
6/15/2010 11:48:29 PM

@Ceallaigh Keep in mind that this article is an EXCERPT from a larger book. As such it has beed EDITED, presumably to fit within an alloted space. After looking up Lierre Keith's homepage, I discovered that she has the first 14 pages of her book up for people to read for free. Much of what was in the article is there, along with other writings that were left out of the article. I think it's also safe to assume that the book's bibliography lists Ms. Keith's sources. I'm also wondering if you ever read the UNEP Report you quoted in support of your arguements. If you look at the Conclusion (, on page 2 you will see that while Agriculture and Biomass using activities account for the largest percentage of habitat loss, water use, and "Intensive agriculture is related to substantial energy use. The loss of soil and biomass carbon can contribute to climate change. Invasive species problems are also connected to agriculture" the report ALSO says "On the other hand, agriculture can also contribute to environmental solutions, e.g. by binding carbon in the soil, increase biodiversity through diverse habitats. THE IMPACTS OF AGRICULTURE THUS DEPEND TO A SUBSTANTIAL DEGREE ON SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE ACTIVITIES AND HENCE THE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT REGIME." The form of agriculture Lierre Keith is proposing is to return farmland to habitat (i.e. Prairie), thus reversing the damage.

6/15/2010 9:53:04 PM

My response to Keith's article is too long to fit within the 1500 character limit, so I've posted it here instead: Best, Ceallaigh

sage blackthorn
6/15/2010 9:29:13 PM

@Gary Manthei: I've seen people talk about "Earth's survival" for many years. It's a dramatic phrase used, I think, solely for effect as it conjures up images in people's head of barren wastelands, totally devoid of all live....kinda like Mars. We have to remember that what they are REALLY talking about is the survival of Earth "as a habitat for human beings". And they do this in order to get through to people who cannot see the connections between themselves and the community of life on the planet that supports them. Let's face it, some folks just don't get it. They are to narrow minded to see the big picture, but they tend to respond to apocalyptic rhetoric. The only problem is that the rhetoric gets old after awhile and looses it's impact. Perhaps we need to better educate ourselves about how our world works, our connection to it through the air we breath, the water we drink and the food we eat. I think we all need to take a big step back and learn to see The Whole and how our choices ripple outwards and affect our world in ways we may not have been aware of before. I'll admit that I've never thought about how modern agriculture necessarily has to destroy and replace an eco-system in order to grow wheat and corn for my meals until I read this article. It's got me thinking about what other connections I've overlooked now.

gary manthei
6/15/2010 5:17:09 PM

Thanks, Mother Earth, for printing this article. The issues addressed here are important and need a great deal of discussion. The emotions raised here show how guarded and territorial folks have become. Entopticon and Paul; the dialogue between the two of you seems informed and healthy and shows a respect for differing views without becoming irrational and insulting. The article reminds me of the writings of Wendell Berry whose work I have just begun to admire in recent months. One thing Keith refers to in this article is the survival of the earth. This is a common phrase when speaking of destructive environmental practices by humans. The truth is, while we may do great harm to the planet and even humanity, nature will ultimately win. This planet is so rich with life that nothing short of an exploding sun could destroy the earth and even then, I suspect, that something of life would survive. Anyway, keep up the discussion.

6/15/2010 5:15:12 PM

After reading some of the comments it seems that vegs' are taking it way too personally. When I read the article I didn't feel that she was attacking vegetarians/vegans. When she said "we" without adding "vegetarians" or "vegans" I felt she was talking about humans as a whole, not just some small minority. I felt the article was interesting and brought to light some things that a lot of people veg or not don't think about all that much.

chana campos_3
6/15/2010 7:42:46 AM

The problem is - this article is completely mis-named. This is not "THE"truth about Vegetarianism", but rather - the author's version of what "truth" means to *her*. The reality is that most people are who are vegan or vegetarian are simply trying to align their actions with their principles. To be consistent in their ethics and within their lives. There is a huge delusion going on in this country - people who wouldn't dream of microwaving Fido - have no problem with (having someone else) murder other sentient, sensitive beings in the names of their palettes. This after having led the most brutal and heartbreaking of lives. What's the difference - all things considered? Why is one animal "better" than another? Could it be that people just don't want to THINK about farm animals as affectionate, intelligent creatures? And please don't bring up the "protein" red herring...we are not suffering from a lack of protein in this country - we ARE suffering however from epidemics of obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, arteriosclerosis and a host of other primarily meat-related illnesses. As Albert Schweitzer said: "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight." And to Mother Earth News - are you really this hard up for articles? Very disappointing and extremely sad.

6/14/2010 11:28:37 PM

Entopticon, I fully understand that ruminants play an integral roll in perennial grass ecology. But, most of our perennial grassland is now annual grassland. Also, much 'pasture' should in fact be reforested. Yes, ruminants used to be numerous here, but they were also driven through areas quickly by predators. In many areas, especially areas with short growing seasons, pasture does not merely need a short rest - it needs to rest for the rest of the season. If perennial grasses are knocked too hard, they will never develop a deep root system, and the soil will suffer accordingly. There are many restoration projects where livestock will do much more harm than good. I'm not sure about transition from annual to perennial grasslands but here is an example from my hometown: Where I live there is a 10acre field that is 100% russian knapweed. The knapweed took over initially because of consistent overgrazing. Livestock would graze on the desireable native plants and perennial grasses, and leave the toxic knapweed untouched. If we seeded out a few perennial grasses and then let the cows go at it, the knapweed would soon achieve dominion again. Also, any native shrubs and trees planted out would be destroyed in short order. So, many areas need to be brought back to a certain level of functionality before ruminants can be allowed on the scene. This can take ten or even twenty years or more in an arid region with a short growing season.

sage blackthorn
6/14/2010 11:22:00 PM

@entopticon Found these two videos of a lecture given by Dan Barber, a Chef and Scholar who talks about our relationship to our food. This one is about a farmer in Spain who raises Geese: This one is about an amazing fish farm in spain that has reversed the ecological damage done to the land it was built on: Both of these "farms" are producing food by working with natural ecological systems instead of against them. The aqua-culture farm is a man-made wetlands/marsh that has become one of Spain's more important bird sanctuaries and is healing the land. The goose farm has become a feeding spot for migrating wild geese. These are both amazing stories and I think you'll like them.

6/14/2010 11:16:44 PM

Entopticon, 1) Ah. I thought you were implying that she gets at the travesty of the inefficiency involved in feeding livestock grain rather than the suffering of the animals themselves. To me, the wholesale destruction of the environment via the enormous amounts of industrial ag required to raise meat is more of a travesty than the suffering of the particular animals involved. That is also the travesty I was referring to with my factoid. 2) Re: "She has great empathy for their desire to do no harm, she just understands that they are misguided because of the essential importance of animals in any sustainable method of food production." That is precisely my contention. Vegans/vegetarians/people who don't eat much meat are motivated by a variety of reasons and most of them are not as naive to think that their diet will solve everything. So, if Lierre was so naive as to think this, she ought not project this stance onto ALL vegetarians/vegans etc. Vegetarianism is manifested in complex ways. I still think that vegetarianism or at least eating far less meat can be anodyne, especially in the short term. The current demand for mean is WAY out of control. Notice how there are about 8 animals in that massive expanse of land in the photo. That is an accurate portrayal of a sustainable project. It simply can't produce as much meat.

6/14/2010 10:12:22 PM

@paul, the perennial grasslands of this country were were once covered with vast herds of pasturing ruminants, often shoulder to shoulder, as far as the eyes could see, stretching out out over the horizon. We virtually wiped them out to make room for agriculture, which turned much of that land into a dustbowl. In fact, because grasslands co-evolved with intensive grazing, it requires it to survive. Grasslands appreciate short periods of rest, but if left too long with out intensive grazing and hoof action, they will soon erode to desert. Sustainable pasturing is our best and only tool for realistically managing the perennial grasslands that create carbon sinks and biomass that is essential to our planet's survival For a better understanding of the common misconceptions about overgrazing, I strongly recommend this article about Operation Hope, the winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for world changing ideas: Ironically, more often than not, the real problem is massive under-grazing. A mountain of evidence shows the effects of environmental orgs such as Operation Hope and Holistic Land management reversing desertification with sustainable intensive grazing. They have literally turned deserts into lush lands brimming with plant life and biodiversity, and even bodies of water springing up in what was once desert, because of the amazing capacity for biomass to control water runoff and reverse soil erosion.

6/14/2010 9:55:38 PM

@paul, I do appreciate your efforts to be open-minded, but I think you are on the wrong track about Lierre Keith. You asked: "Where does she mention that feeding animals grain is a travesty?" You are clearly responding to some imagined argument that you guessed from the title of the article rather than the article itself, because in actuality she jumped right into that in the section on factory farming right on the first page of the article, in no uncertain terms. For example: "Grain will dramatically increase the growth rate of beef cattle and the milk production of dairy cows. It will also kill them. The delicate bacterial balance of a cow’s rumen may become acidic and turn septic. Chickens get fatty liver disease if fed corn exclusively. Sheep and goats, which are also ruminants like cattle, shouldn’t touch the stuff either." I don't think Lierre Keith is anything like you imagine her to be. It is hard to even imagine someone who is as critical of factory farms as she is. Her 20 years as a vegan, until a greater understanding of sustainable agriculture and her health issues changed her thinking, made her extremely sympathetic to the goals of veganism. She has great empathy for their desire to do no harm, she just understands that they are misguided because of the essential importance of animals in any sustainable method of food production.

6/14/2010 7:06:57 PM

I realized that I messed up by calling Lierre a "he" and wanted to apologize for my mistake. Sorry!

6/14/2010 11:56:54 AM

Where does she mention that feeding animals grain is a travesty? I only remember her mentioning that most ecologists' calculations of the caloric inefficiency of this practice assume that livestock only eat grain. Of course, this caloric evaluation does not even take the effects of overgrazing into account. Overgrazing is just as much at fault for reducing the productivity of agricultural land as poor ag practices. Again, eating lots of meat is not such a good idea until a huge transition is made. I agreed with her point (which is not a new one) that vegetarianism is not a cure all before I read her article. My point is that many vegetarians are aware of this and have much more complex reasons for not eating much meat. So, attacking the vegetarian myth, if there is such a thing, as some culprit, does not seem productive. In addition, in attacking this 'myth' so polemically, she dismisses it as being part of the solution, which I think it still can be.

6/14/2010 11:46:11 AM

Entopticon, I'm not disagreeing that animals are essential for creating resilient, healthy ecosystems. I think that we basically agree on good methods for sustainability. I also don't think that meat=bad, vege=good, and I'm not sure that this is a common vegetarian viewpoint either. "Most meat is factory farmed, just as most vegetables are factory farmed. Saying that that is a reason not to eat meat is just as ridiculous as saying that that is a reason not to eat vegetables." No, it isn't just as ridiculous. It is far more destructive to factory farm meat. Thus, most people should cut back on meat consumption until the supply of sustainable meat catches up with demand (and I don't think it ever will). I agree that we should be pushing for sustainable ag, and should include herd animals in the solutions. My main point is this: Lierre really comes off as oversimplifying what vegetarians are trying to accomplish and what most vegetarians believe about their eating habits. I believe that vegetarianism has its place for many reasons and most of them are not addressed by Lierre. I and many vegetarians do not believe that it is a panacea. This is my main contention: She oversimplifies the argument for vegetarianism and/or consuming less meat. It seems that a strong argument can be made for vegetarianism, and I think that she doesn't understand why it can be part of the solution. People certainly don't need to be encouraged to eat MORE meat at this point in time.

sage blackthorn
6/14/2010 5:50:12 AM

I was quite pleased to see this article in my new issue of Mother Earth News. I did not see it as an attack on Vegitarianism, as so many of the commenters before me seem to have taken it, but rather a wake-up call to vegitarians to think about the un-intended consequences of their choice of diet. A request that people think about where there food comes from. If your food comes wrapped in plastic, well guess what, plastic comes from oil. Oil is mostly obtained from drilling, which is subject to oil spills. Not wrapped in plastic? Ok, that's a bit better, but how far did it have to travel to get to you? Was it grown/raised in your backyard? No? Well then it had to be transported to you somehow. Most likely from a farm 100-2,500 miles away from you by trucks which run on gasoline or diesel fuel, which belches forth carbon monoxide into the atmosphere (which is kinda hard on the lungs). If you are not producing your own food, think about all the energy, effort, fuel, and resources that goes into getting you your organicly grown, cruelty free, free-range, non-irradiated, pesticide free meal? Did you walk down the road to buy it from Farmer John? Or was it trucked in from an airport after being flown thousands of miles from the opposite hemisphere because it wasn't in season where you live? If so, how much carbon monoxide was put into the air? That's all the article's asking. Think about how you get your food and are you doing more harm than good to the planet?

6/14/2010 12:11:24 AM

Speaking of straw men Paul, Keith most certainly does not hide the fact that it is a travesty that so much agricultural land is wasted on crops to grow grains to feed animals, and your contention to the contrary is nonsense. Did you actually read her article? Most meat is factory farmed, just as most vegetables are factory farmed. Saying that that is a reason not to eat meat is just as ridiculous as saying that that is a reason not to eat vegetables. It is an absurd argument. Lierre Keith's point, that we should be pushing for sustainable food systems that include animals, because vegetarianism will not solve all our problems as some believe, is perfectly reasonable. The vegetables on my farm have benefited from animal products such as manure over the years. The cows at the farm down the road, that are improving the soil and biodiversity of the land they graze on, are one of the most environmentally sustainable food choices for me. When they chew off the tops of perennial grass plants, the plants respond by sloughing off roots, which feeds the microorganisms in the soil, massively increasing soil vitality to the tune of billions of microorganisms in a handful. And they also respond by sending down deeper roots, which unlike the plants of ag, tap into hard to reach minerals that are distributed throughout the ecosystem. And that also retains water and prevents erosion. The water runoff of a plowed field is not much better than a parking lot. Read the SEED article.

6/13/2010 11:43:12 PM

Paul, I think you are misinterpreting her work, and the dichotomies you mention are of your own interpretation. She came to the conclusions that she did through her own experience with sustainable farming. In actuality, she points out that oversimplified binary polemics like meat=bad, vegetables=good are exactly what got us into so much trouble in the first place. Any sustainable system of food production mirrors the natural balance of microorganisms, plants, and animals in a particular ecosystem. The canard about the amount of available pastureland is silly. In some areas there is more viable land for ruminants than others. There is not enough land not to include animals in sustainable farming, particularly in the many regions which do not produce much in the way of vegetables for most of the year. It makes no sense whatsoever for you to be citing permaculture in your criticism of Lierre Keith. As you seem to know, most permaculture farmers understand the essential importance of animals in agriculture, which roundly supports her argument that vegetarianism is not the environmental panacea that is is often sold as. Permaculture farmers such as Lierre Keith know that eliminating animals from agriculture does more harm than good. On the issue of the West and pasturing, you should really look into what Holistic Land Management out of New Mexico has been doing to use sustainable pasturing through intensive grazing to reverse desertification and restore biodiversity.

6/13/2010 9:09:31 PM

here is a relevant statistic that Lierre fails to mention: Over 50% of all grain produced in the U.S. is consumed by livestock. This means that over 50% of industrial ag in the US exists to support meat production. This is a very good reason to not eat most meat and, considering that the current supply of sustainable meat is far below the total demand for meat, it is an even better reason to encourage most people to not eat meat at this point in history.

6/13/2010 8:01:52 PM

@ entopticon: I never said that Lierre didn't think that permaculture, etc. are viable options. I merely said that her images seem to imply a dichotomy. Also, I included well managed pastureland, destructive industial ag, permaculture/food forests, and overgrazed land as possible results of food production. I never said that sustainably managed pasture do not yield higher levels of biodiversity. I merely said that this practice is exceptionally difficult and that there is not enough pasture land on the planet to sustainably raise enough meat for the world's population. In arid regions like the southwest (where I live), you need over 30 acres of land to sustainably raise 1 sheep. Re: Your notion of permaculture: Permaculture is not the same as organic. Organic farming can be almost as destructive as conventional ag, as you point out. Permaculture: typically involves herd animals as an integral part of ecosystem management. In Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren defines permaculture as “Consciously designed landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs...the permaculture vision of permanent (sustainable) agriculture has evolved to one of permanent (sustainable) culture."

6/13/2010 7:49:14 PM

As a vegetarian, I was caught by the title of this article and decided to purchase this month's Mother Earth News to satisfy my curiosity. There were several sentiments I agree were a bit unnecessarily incendiary toward vegetarians, but I think that once you get past some of the initial aggression there are some valid points as well. Perhaps it is true that pasture raised beef is a more sustainable choice of protein than monocropped soybeans, and it is quite right that the health of an ecosystem does absolutely depend upon the health and welfare of all of its parts--diversity is indeed key to the survival of our planet. And it is based on that fact that I agree with the author that humans' methods of agriculture fall far short of perfection or really even adequacy; however, I am not sure that this necessarily means that choosing a vegetarian diet based upon the knowledge of how our industrial agricultural system currently works is a poor, or even poorly informed, choice. I do agree that our society is in need of a food awakening, and that perhaps choosing vegetarianism gives us a false sense of security that we have done our part for the health of the planet when there is really much more we can and should be striving toward. Pasture raising beef may be part of the answer, but what I believe we need is a re-visioning of how we get food: making it self-sufficient, sustainable, and closer to the hunter-gatherer style upon which we evolved with techniques like permaculture.

loves trees
6/13/2010 7:28:38 PM

I have tried reading this article several times trying to understand the author's point of view and reason for writing the article. Neither easy to come by. The author may have been stupid or naive to have been a vegetarian. THe people I know who don't eat meat are neither and they come from places of compassion as well as health. Is there any chance the author is now working for the agra industry? All I can say after reading this several times is: HUH?????

6/13/2010 6:49:08 PM

So many of these comments exemplify exactly what Lierre Keith was talking about. As opposed to any form of agriculture, sustainable pasturing actually improves the land. I am all for organic methods, but research shows that while organic methods have allow for about 12% more wildlife than conventional farms, the yields average about 55% lower, resulting in a huge net loss. One sustainably raised cow could could easily meet an adult's primary protein needs for an entire year. The amount of animal habitat and soil vitality lost to make up for the difference for an all-vegetable diet is huge, let alone all of the animals that will die in the agricultural process. Sustainably pastured cows convert sun, rain, and inedible grasses into food, while massively increasing the biodiversity and soil vitality of the land in the process. The arguments presented by commenters here about it being wasteful are nonsense. Elliott Colemean is one of the many people to look to if you want to understand the key importance of animals in sustainable agriculture. You think he doesn't know about sustainable farming? Operation Hope, which uses intensive, sustainable pasturing methods to reverse desertification is another great resource. They just won the Buckminstiller Fuller Institute's Challenge for world-changing ideas. This article about their work and the Challenge is an amazing resource:

6/13/2010 6:47:31 PM

I am not a vegetarian and feel ofended by this article and book. Why attack vegetarians to make your point. Yes factory farming of animals is cruel, yes current agricultural practices mostly geared towards grain raising to feed these tortured animals is destroying the land, yes grass fed animals are better off themselves and better for the planet and the people who eat them. So why attack vegetarians to make these points. Maybe the sensationalism of this approach will sell more books and yes Mother maybe more magazines. I do not object to bringing up a controversial topic but I think the cover story title "the truth about vegetarianism" was purely a marketing ploy on the magazines part. Also there is the topic of who exactly can afford this grassfed beef. Filet Mignon is currently selling for $25.00 per pound at Polyface Farms. The average underpaid consumer who is lucky they can afford a 99 cent burger at McDonalds is certainly not going to buy meat produced by grassfed farming. These often sick and unhealthy people would clearly be better off being vegetarian because the meat products they can afford are making them as sick and unhealthy as the animals produced under these disgusting conditions. So again why this author has chosen to attack vegetarians to make her point is highly questionable. If she did not feel well being vegan then fine, eat meat but again why castigate those who have chosen to not eat meat.

6/13/2010 6:23:04 PM

Paul accuses Lierre Keith of creating presumptuous and naive straw-man arguments, but ironically, that is exactly what Paul has done. Paul runs through a long list of things that he claims Lierre assumes, but it is he that is making those assumptions. For example, Lierre Keith certainly doesn't assume that things like permaculture and veganic agriculture aren't practices that are employed. Virtually all of Paul's assertions are completely ignorant of the basic fundamentals of sustainable pasturing, and dangerously ignorant of the effects on biodiversity and soil vitality that all farming methods with reasonable yields pose. A great deal of research shows that sustainable pasturing massively increases biodiversity and exponentially increases soil vitality. Overgrazing does not apply to sustainably managed pasture lands. I am all for permaculture, but the notion that permaculture and veganic methods don't displace massive amounts of animal habitat and extremely decrease biodiversity, no matter how many companion plants are employed, is just poppycock. Lower yield organic methods increase biodiversity over the obliteration caused by conventional ag by about 12%, but the 55+% lower yields mean there is a huge net loss because of all of the extra space needed. Sustainably pastured grasslands and savannas mirror the biodiverse ecosystems of deep-rooted perennials far more closely than any garden of the shallow-rooted annuals that are the basis of agriculture.

6/12/2010 7:26:19 PM

So, was Lierre ever a ‘true’ vegetarian (to turn her own dagger towards her) or was she just a really naïve one? Re: "Their calculations on energy used, calories consumed and humans unfed are based on the notion that animals eat grain...they (now cows, not vegetarians) ate what we couldn't eat (cellulose)" This view ignores the fact that even grass fed animals are still farmed. A good rancher knows that s/he is farming grass. The productivity of the land is directly linked to the health of the grass. Clearly, if everyone in the world got the bulk of their protein from grass fed beef, extraordinary overgrazing issues would result. Re: “Life isn’t possible without death, and no matter what you eat, something has to die to feed you.” The first phrase is an obvious platitude. The second does not follow from the first. It is possible to create ecological systems that are highly abundant in resources for humans and ‘wild’life. So, this statement misses half of the story – something may have to die to feed you (assuming that you think eating a zucchini constitutes killing something), but it is also possible to create more life than you take in producing what sustains you. There are multiple models, both lived and theoretical, for this type of existence.

6/12/2010 7:25:30 PM

Please read my comments in the following order: 1) JSK hit... 2) So, was Lierre... 3) This brings me... 4) My response to her...

6/12/2010 7:20:52 PM

My response to her is that if she thought within kas-limaal, she would eat less meat at this point in history. Given scientific data about global warming, overgrazing, and the general destruction resulting from meat production, kas-limaal asks us to consider the imbalances occurring within our indebtedness to the earth, and that giving up most meat for the time being is the right thing to do. Even if we produce our own meat, sustainably raising meat is VERY difficult to do, and requires a dramatic reduction in our intake of meat (unless we are 1 person grazing animals only for our own consumption on a ridiculously large plot of land – then maybe we could have burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner without reducing topsoil and vegetation). The people ragging on MotherEarth for publishing this article do have a point. The article resembles propaganda or ill thought-out news reporting more than it does an informative and authoritative article. Certainly it is a “point of view” but not every point of view, especially if it is built upon deceptive logical errors, should be given a public platform.

6/12/2010 7:20:23 PM

This brings me to the issue of the images included in the article. The images imply a false dichotomy: Either we have beautiful grassland pasture OR we have massive amounts of industrial ag. So…do we have any other options? Yes – Permaculture, food forests, etc., or, on the other end (and I live in an area like this) we have massive overgrazing and the dustbowl. An easy way to confront Lierre is to ask: Why am I a vegetarian? Her idea of THE myth of vegetarianism does not address my reasons for being ‘vegetarian’. I hesitate to call myself a vegetarian because given different historical circumstances, I’m sure I’d eat much more meat. I do eat meat on occasion when my cousin slaughters a sheep. She might argue that this perspective verges on a form of kas-limaal because I base my actions on the specific way my life is indebted to the earth and other beings around me, and that I therefore agree with her main conclusion about a need for a fundamental change of view.

6/12/2010 7:14:12 PM

JSK hit the nail on the head when he called this article a straw man. I personally found it presumptuous, and frankly a little naïve. Lierre commits a straw man when she projects her initial position on vegetarianism on all other vegetarians. She assumes that no vegetarian has a more advanced view on the subject than she did when she started out. Therefore she only confronts her version of being vegetarian and tries to pass it off as a confrontation with the views of all vegetarians: - She presumes that vegetarians think that simply not eating meat will be a panacea for all the world's ecological problems. I've never met a vegetarian who thinks this. - She presumes that such a thing as “the philosophy of vegetarianism” exists. Vegetarianism is manifested within so many different contexts that one would be hard up to talk about anything like “THE philosophy of vegetarianism”. Therefore trying to pin down anything like “THE Truth about vegetarianism” is also a questionable project. I’ve never met a vegetarian who thought that all vegetarians are vegetarian for the same reasons. - "But THEIR..." (who are they? this reminds me of big news corporations using 'they say' as a filler when they lack a legitimate source or want to interject political opinions while still coming off as objective) "first mistake is in assuming factory the only way to raise animals". I've never met a vegetarian who assumes this.

6/12/2010 3:00:13 PM

As a vegetarian, this article admittedly had my hackles up at first. But the more that I read on, the more I understood what Lierre Keith was trying to say. He is saying (or at least this is my interpretation of what he is saying) is that not eating meat isn't the "only" answer/solution. He's saying that we need to dig deeper and ask ourselves, "Where exactly DID my meal come from?". Did my meal come from a field where the soil is horribly eroded due to commercial farming? Did my meal come from another country where the workers are treated horribly and not paid a fair wage? Did my vegetarian/vegan meal contribute to another person's, animal's, or environment's suffering, pain, depletion, or downfall? And in all fairness to Mr. Keith, I have to agree with that mindset. I believe with every fiber of my being that we all need to take responsibility for what we put in our mouths, whether we eat meat or not. The thought for many of us vegetarians/vegans that we could still be harming the environment even though we no longer eat meat is a hard pill to swallow, but one that we must swallow none-the-less. It's when we come to the realization that we CAN be doing more, and then figuring out how we can contribute to that solution, that we can all move forward in our efforts to help each other and our planet.

6/11/2010 1:22:23 PM

This article is an excellent example of a straw man argument and I am disappointed to see Mother perpetuating such a thing. Additionally, the actual content is more of a "The Truth about Industrial Agriculture" than vegetarianism. Truly, Mum, I expect better.

6/11/2010 1:06:33 AM

I love the fact that Mother Earth would print this story. Controversy can make you angry, make you think, and even make you reconsider(if you're open-minded). As Ness Belyea said:"perhaps you should own your own animals, slaughter your own animals and eat only your own animals." That's exactly the way it was meant to be. No animal was meant to be raised by the hundreds or thousands. That's industrial farming. If we all raised our own, we'd have a couple of cows in the pasture, a few pigs in the pen, etc..that doesn't hurt the environment if done right.We haven't purchased any meat for over three years. We eat beef, pork, & chicken all the time. Hormone free, antibiotic free, happy critters.

richard smith_3
6/10/2010 8:38:01 PM

Why are people that read this magazine so inclined to ask motherearth to not publish provocative writings? What does this article say that brings out such un-democratic and intolerable feelings in it's readers? Can we actually declare that such a thing as vegie-nazism exists? why don't we take the time to read about ideas contrary to what is accepted and make opinions that can refute them, instead of asking mother to have shame because they are acting upon their responsability to protect free speech and freedom of press? If your ideals are so vulnerable that a couple of ideas can bring up the worst in you, maybe you should re-examine what the heck made you a vegetarian in the first place.

diana daniels
6/10/2010 7:27:44 PM

I don't fault Mother Earth for publishing the article. I think there were some over simplifications and it doesn't address farmed animals contribution to global warming to name just one point. The reality is that factory farming isn't going to go away, and I don't want to support it, however insignificant my personal choices are. I don't want an animal killed for my sake, when I have other, healthier choices. A meat-eating friend told me she eats only meat from animals that are humanely raised. I am not sure I understand what is humane about an animal being raised for people to eat, but whatever. I grow my own vegetables, raise chickens for eggs, no rooster, and feel good about my choices. I don't broadcast my vegetarianism because it oddly annoys many people. Read Vegetarianism, A History by Colin Spencer, and was startled to learn that in the past vegetarians were sometimes killed. Can't be too careful.

bob trump
6/10/2010 6:19:09 PM

i've been reading the comments and i'm wondering if any of the people who comment for the article, even read it. maybe in the book, but not in the article does anything even make sense. the title the truth about vegetarianism, what truth? there are no facts, no mention of solutions and no myths busted. What myth? That feeding grain to animals is wasting resources? That factory farming is polluting the environment? That animals are tortured their entire lives? i used to hunt and fish and for the first 25 of 45 years i ate meat. who cares? the facts are giving up meat and dairy will solve a lot of problems personal health and environmental. there just is not enough land to let cows graze and for you to consume meat at the current rates. even if the fields of grain and corn were left to go wild. so lets be real this is really about someone who couldn't take being different any longer and wanted to fit in. and yes it can be hard sometimes being vegan. but i feel better than i ever did in my twenties and there aren't many 20 year olds who could keep up with me today at 45. i read many health books and articles and listen to my body and we're doing fine kathy s. did you ever hear of organic, bio-dynamic or no-till farming? peace bob

kathy s_1
6/10/2010 11:49:17 AM

Lierre is asking that we consider the importance of the grass lands and the health of our soil. She also asks that we consider the requests of our bodies when our diet leaves us feeling cold or tired, suffer aches or pains, when our hair is dried out and our skin goes dry, when our memory fails to work, when thinking becomes difficult. Before you defend, listen not to Lierre, but to your own body. When our identity gets connected to certain titles we tend to defend our concepts more than we listen to our bodies. Forget about Lierre, What is your body telling you? Forget about Lierre, How much grass land and forest can we plow and not upset the ecology?

6/10/2010 2:30:17 AM

Robert's article about the Amish dairy farmers who don't manage their manure properly, is more positive than negative. First of all, while I respect the Amish, let's not put them on a pedestal just to pull them down from it. Just because the Amish shun modern conveniences and live close to the land doesn't mean they are up-to-date on the best ecological practices. In fact you could argue their lifestyle does keep them from being aware of their downstream effects as well as keep them from seeing the global picture. And in fact, just because they are Amish doesn't necessarily mean individuals are good farmers or even want to implement ecological practices. But from the article, it seemed like the government workers were approaching the Amish with respect as well, that most of the Amish farmers could understand the negative effects of their practices, and most were voluntarily adopting the proposed changes. Much was made about whether the Amish would take the subsidy to make the changes, but it still sounded like they were cleaning up the manure problems.

6/10/2010 2:27:34 AM

Carla, it seems to me the vegetarians and vegans in the comments were attacking Mother Earth News because the article unfairly attacked them. I feel their comments are legitimate (though some couldn't resist getting on their soap box and I feel that weakens their position). Mother Earth News had the opportunity to write an article like you mention, where the benefits of small-scale, ethical, and humane animal husbandry could be touted (this same issue even has the article about raising a dairy cow and mentions slaughtering the calves). They could even gently suggest that such practices might do much to "win over" those vegetarians whose choice is solely based on the inhumane treatment in factory farms (I'd actually be interested in seeing a poll of the reasons people choose veggie/vegan diets). But they blew it by publishing this attack piece full of straw men and red herrings. Frankly, I'm surprised by this article because while MEN tends to advocate certain lifestyles, they don't usually go bashing personal choices. They cater to city slickers, suburbanites, and rural folks alike, and generally avoid alienating any one of them with strong moral positions (though they did ruffle some feathers by advocating for green energy and conservation). The more I think about, the more I would appreciate a retraction.

jennifer _1
6/9/2010 8:04:51 PM

Destructive industrial agriculture is the result of vegetarians? All the wheat being grown on 98% of prairie land is because of vegetarians? How are vegetarians linked to the disappearance of Chinook, the bison, grass sparrows and gray wolves, where are the facts that say these species are gone as a direct results of vegetarianism? The article shows a photo of a large-scale monoculture farming destroying the soil, like that has anything to do with vegetarians, was that farmer in the photo growing food just for vegetarians? It’s obvious that this person used to be a vegetarian and has now changed their mind and wants to meat again and is now blaming everything from the sorry state of the grass lands, industrial farming, to the extinction of prairie animals on vegetarianism in order to justify their decision to eat meat. This article is absurd and just plain bogus. I see the beginning of a witch hunt. Blame the vegetarians it’s all there fault! They are destroying the planet!!! Mother Earth you should be ashamed for running this poorly researched article.

carla brauer_2
6/9/2010 1:35:26 PM

I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of this article. I had high hopes for it really discussing the benefits of small scale animal agriculture or getting further into how raising grass fed grazing animals can actually help create carbon sinks and potentially do some good to fight global warming. I was also hoping people would have a good, healthy debate in the comments. My big complaint with some (definitely not all!) vegans/vegetarians is, when you show them some facts suggest eating animals can be done environmentally responsibly and humanely, they take it as a personal attack. I have raised and slaughtered animals with my own hands, with compassion, respect, and minimal impact. That animal can feed two families for a whole winter. And my girlfriend, a vegan, understands and supports those choices as I do hers. We discuss it in depth, consider each other's positions, and develop respect for them. I'm disappointed that so many self-proclaimed vegans/vegetarians are attacking Mother Earth News for sharing information that doesn't support their points of view. This is not, and never has been, a vegan magazine. As a meat eater, if they ran a piece telling of the benefits of vegetarianism, I would not have a problem with it, and be glad to hear from that perspective. Please open your minds to differing points of view - *that* is what's going to help save the world. Developing understanding, debating with an open mind, and respecting others' positions.

6/9/2010 1:25:05 PM

As you can see small "sustainable" family (animal) farms have problems too:

6/9/2010 12:41:35 PM

I would like to make one more point. Fruits and grains propagate by having seeds. They are meant to be eaten so that their seeds pass through the digestive track of animals and are "passed" out in different locations where they take root and grow in diferent areas. It is part of their process to spread and grow. Eating a cow does not help it propagate or reproduce. A carrot dies at the end of the summer whether we eat it or not. A cow could live for 20 years, but it's life is cut short. Yes, you have to "kill" to live, but if I have to chose, I will "kill" carrots over cows any day.

6/9/2010 12:24:31 PM

Wow. Shame on you for publishing such a hogwash article. I have been a vegan for 8 years. It's bad enough that meat eaters love-to-hate vegetarians, but now we have to be attacked by ex-vegetarians. I am for compassion over killing. To me there is a big difference between using animals for food over eating plants. Most animals are force fed drugs and hormones, they have their beaks, toes and tails cut off, and are generally tortured their whole lives to be someone's dinner. Vegetables are not tortured. I personally eat only organic, and I raise many of my own vegetables, so I am not part of the mega-farm system. This was the first issue of Mother Earth I have ever read. This will also be my last. I was excited to find a magazine that had info on growing vegetables, etc. But when I came upon this article, I was very disappointed. Obviously, the editors are big meat eaters and want to justify their willingness to kill others.

6/9/2010 2:07:19 AM

I come to the Mother Earth News website for the very first time to critique the lack of logic in this article and its misguided criticism towards vegetarians/vegans, but I see that others (Colin, Bakari, Vanessa, and others) have made the point well before me. I will just say that I second everything written by those named above. There are two trends appearing in the comments, and I think they are crucial to understanding the motivations behind this article. The first is my observation that some vegans and vegetarians (not all)can be very self-righteous about their choices and judgemental of others. To me, this is excusable to a degree, their self-righteousness is benign to others, unlike that of various other groups and isms. However benign, this holier-than-thou attitude really rubs some folks (not all) the wrong way. It causes them to lash out at all vegetarians, try to trap them in dubious moral arguments, and generally demean them. As we see in the comments here, the verbal abuse can be aggravated online. It's as if these anti-veg feel threatened by someone else's veg choices. I feel Lierre Keith's article is a sad attempt to rationalize that attitude. Unsurprisingly, Keith's arguments don't hold water and ultimately reveal how shallow this veggie-phobia really is. Personally, I'm not vegetarian, but my wife is and I have seen how people attack her verbally when she calmly explains her reasons.

mel in wa_2
6/8/2010 4:09:25 PM

I think that this article as well as the Food Inc. documentary really challenge us each to vote with our pocketbooks. This means spending more sometimes or raising our own vegs/animals when we can. This is just a great article to spur local, sustainable, intensively-grown crops and mob-stocked cattle, pasture raised chicken,etc. This will not only heal the Earth but the economy.

6/8/2010 11:46:36 AM

What we appear to have here is a person who, in the past, jumped to the erroneous conclusion that a completely animal-free diet was the ONLY healthy and sustainable way to eat--and then, in the face of evidence to the contrary, jumped to the opposite and equally erroneous conclusion that it is IMPOSSIBLE for a vegetarian diet to be healthy and sustainable. Just because Lierre Keith, as a vegan, didn't bother to think about the environmental consequences of the way food crops are grown, s/he seems to be assuming that all other vegetarians have been equally blind and thoughtless. Pardon me, but some of us have actually thought about the social and environmental costs of what we eat--yes, all of them--and come to a decision we can live with. I certainly hope that the rest of the book from which this article was excerpted contains some actual facts, and not just more self-righteous blather.

sven curth_2
6/8/2010 7:08:27 AM

Amen. Best article I've read in a long time. I've been harassing my veg friends for years about their misplaced (and too often self-righteous)enthusiasm to "save the world" through their diet. With this many humans on the planet - it doesn't matter at all WHAT we eat - it's WHERE it comes from. Mass farming of ANYTHING (meat/produce/grain/fish) to feed a swollen population is violently destructive. Why pick just one group to blame? If you really want to stand up against the status quo of "food establishment" - stop eating anything! (or eat RESPONSIBLY grown, raised, or hunted food).

valerie mehring
6/8/2010 2:40:11 AM

I've been veg for almost half my life, so of course I am disappointed that Lierre Keith has taken some thoughtful arguments in support of sustainable agriculture and used them to attack vegetarianism. Keith seems to be comparing pasture-raised livestock with the industrial farms that produce commodity crops, and equating those megafarms with vegetarianism. That's quite a stretch. Commodity crops are mostly exported, turned into animal feed, or processed into cereal, snack chips, etc. They're not being grown to satisfy vegetarians. Nor is pastured livestock the norm. Americans eat lots of cheap meat; this can only be made possible by industrial livestock production. I find it ironic that this article concludes with a Mayan proverb. The prevailing theory about the disappearance of the Maya is that their poor agricultural practices caught up with them; they could no longer produce enough food. Adult knowledge, indeed. Chemical and genetic sleight-of-hand has enabled us to delay our own agricultural collapse, but vegetarianism isn't the problem. Blame the corporations behind our industrial food system and a complicit government. When it is actually cheaper to get your calories from chips and soda than from fresh FOOD, that's a toxic situation. Too bad Keith misses a chance to contribute to awareness of this potentially fatal disconnect.

vanessa francis_2
6/6/2010 10:41:15 PM

The truisms, the thoughtful quotations... this article is complete baloney. "You can feed grain to animals, but it is not the diet for which they were designed" ... so if you don't feed them grain (and you don't plow up all that land to grow the grain to feed them) and you just put them out to pasture then, miraculously, you are not then using all that land that is "unsuited for growing large grain crops", don't we all win? "Most of us are now urban industrialists, and many of us don't know the origins of our food." - Vegetarians account for maybe 10% of the population give or take, so why is it that they should take the fall for not knowing the origins of their food? I realize that to say that vegetarians are often better informed about their food sources on the whole is a subjective statement, but are the omnivores any more informed? "Today's industrial agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems." - Were the vegetarians the instigators of this heinous practice? Are omnivores somehow exempt from responsibility? Could it simply be that we have big problems with farming practices that need to be addressed by all of us that eat grains and vegetables, whether exclusively or as a part of our diet? Franklin Davis, I am with you this article makes no sense at all!

jonathan fogel
6/6/2010 9:34:40 PM

99% of the animals slaughtered for food in this country are raised on mass factory farms that the author agrees are cruel, wasteful, and destructive. Even many farms that call themselves “free range” have been exposed as being no different. Most people who become vegan for ethical reasons do so because they do not want to participate in causing this kind of cruelty to living, sentient beings. Although factory farming may not be the “only” way to raise animals, the reason why small, non-factory farms are so uncommon in comparison to factory farms is because such operations would simply be unable to satisfy the collective demand that Americans today have developed for meat. What we should be focused on is doing all we can to reduce this demand, in order to reduce the tremendous suffering that farm animals have to endure. People advocate a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle because this is the most effective way of doing this. If one day we’re ultimately able to vastly reduce or eliminate factory farms, then we can have the debate about whether it’s ethical to eat animals raised on local farms. Until then, as long as we can agree that local farms would simply be unable to satisfy the current demand for meat, this article is unfortunately very short sighted about what we should care about, which is reducing cruelty.

vanessa francis_2
6/6/2010 9:27:59 PM

First of all I am rather shocked and disheartened that Mother Earth News chose to publish such a poorly reasoned article. A better title would have been "The Truth About A Jaded Ex-Vegan". Ms Keith seems blissfully unaware that her primary argument is a complete non sequitur and I am quite frankly bemused that nobody has pointed this out to her before now. What is more alarming is she's written a whole book on the subject. Ms Keith comes across as someone who has emerged from a cult that she now wants to blame not only her own problems on, but the problems of the entire world. Is she high? I would love to go into more detail about why Ms Keith is, I feel, so wrong, but I just can't seem to choose which of the countless fundamentally flawed arguments to pick apart, I'm gobsmacked it even made it into print. This article isn't contentious, it's just plain poor.

diane d.
6/6/2010 7:02:34 PM

A more appropriate title would be " An Opinion about Vegetarians". Who gave her the supreme knowledge?? I have eaten vegetarian for over 33 years, and I hardly ever eat soybeans, and try to never eat gmo anything! I live in SW Michigan and all the bigger farms plant everything GMO. But smaller natural farms grow veggies, and yes some do grass fed beef. The vast soybeans, and corn feed BEEF, not vegetarians!

6/6/2010 4:55:40 PM

"Not eating meat won't solve the planets problems" Of course there isn't any one thing which will save us. There are many things we have to do. That being one. What a riduclous statement. I think the impact from plant vs meat based diet is well documented. There is no comparison. Although the author is probably right that the calculations asummed grain fed. The calculations have to be re-done for grass fed. If the Clean Water Act were enforced more, factory farming most likely would not survive. What would the production of meat be if only from grass ? What would the price of meat be then ? Would it be like cavier, a delicacy for the rich ? Sounds good to me. Make it so.

juanita hawfield_2
6/6/2010 4:23:16 PM

I enjoyed the article because it asks deep questions without offering superficial solutions. I do not interpret it as an attack on vegetarianism, but rather as pointing out that we are killing the planet and that there are no obvious solutions. Jared Diamond has also written on the subject in the book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, but alas I have not read it.

bob trump
6/6/2010 7:47:13 AM

This is the kind of garbage I expect to see in some conservative magazine or on Fox news. What myth? That feeding grain to animals is wasting resources? That factory farming is polluting the environment? That animals are tortured their entire lives? Everyone can not run around foraging and hunting for their food. Can you imagine millions of people running around in the woods with guns. This is ludicrous! In no time at all, large animals would disappear. I'm pretty sure most people realize eating/farming causes some harm and the death of small animals and bugs, but you have to draw a line somewhere. This is just someones way of justifying their desire to eat meat and fit in with the uncaring. Social minded Libertarian & Vegan Bob p.s. my wife suggested not renewing,I said not yet.

franklin davis
6/5/2010 5:58:25 AM

Hello Folks...I have read this article a number of times and still can't figure out what the h--- the point is.

richard smith_3
6/4/2010 11:28:41 PM

Hi Hooma I think that what the author was saying was not that vegans are responsible for misguided farming practices, but that they ignore them while condemning misguided meat production practices. So if you eat veggies that where mass produced in an un-ecological production system, you are very much similar to those who consume mass produced animal based foods. The main purpose may be a critique of modern food practices and the ignorance of the modern people who consume them, no matter what ideological stance each 'consumer' holds.

richard smith_3
6/4/2010 9:53:00 PM

Once I was told that meat was murder. I thought about this for a while and eventually was unable to refute the following idea: If meat is murder than vegetables are herbicide. After this I spoke to a friend who believes eating meat is comparable to evil deeds due to the fact that a living being was loosing it's life. I invited her to the idea that plants must also be killed to sustain us. She refuted this idea by saying that plants had designed themselves to provide food for us and that animals had not done this. I jokingly told her that she should educate lions to eat tofu and potatoes. She did not take it as a joke and said that no living creature should suffer so as to become another beings food. And I thought: how do we stop the suffering of a zebra being eaten by lions? how do we know that a stalk of broccoli is not feeling some sort of stimulus we could compare to pain by being cut with a knife? But most importantly... when did we lose all sense of reality and connection to nature when we assume that death and suffering can be avoided to sustain ourselves? Only modern life, in all its manifestations, can inspire us to think that we can live in a "humane", pain-free, antiseptic, and death-free existence. Only our present ways of being humans can produce a vegan, as much as it has produced the ultra-macho meat guzzler.

jacob aziza_3
6/4/2010 9:16:33 PM

An analogy: It takes mining for steel and energy for a factory to produce a bicycle. Therefor, bicycle production is damaging to the environment. Therefor, people who give up driving cars and rides bikes instead are falling for the "bicycle myth". They really aren't doing anything positive for the environment.

bakari kafele
6/4/2010 5:09:35 PM

This presents a false dichotomy; one in which the two choices for food are 1) sustainable, local, organically raised meat, or 2) industrially produced plants. That premise is simply ridiculous. When comparing apples to apples - either industrial meat to industrial plants, or organic meat to organic plants, a vegetarian diet is still vastly superior in terms of negative ecological impact. It is absolutely true that our system of agriculture is unsustainable. It is ALSO true that each step higher in the food chain comes with a 90% loss of energy. In other words, if a plant produces 100 calories, and that plant is eaten by an animal, 90 of those calories go to the animals metabolism. Only 10 go into producing the flesh which we eat. Given the reality that society is not going to return to hunting and gathering in the next few years, our choices are eat the plant, and get all 100 calories, or use 10 times as much land in order to get the same number of calories from animals. Agriculture, as destructive as it is, undeniably produces far more calories per unit of land than hunting and gathering. That is what has allowed our population to grow as much as it has. In order to revert to the days of prairie fed bison would require a population similar to what it was in those days - about 10 times less than today. Unless this is a veiled proposal to kill 9 out of every 10 people on the planet, I don't understand the reasoning behind criticizing something which is better (a vegetaria

megan thompson_1
6/2/2010 10:18:17 PM

I am a vegetarian and I do not agree with this article. This article completely bashes fun vegetarians. Vegetarians are definitely better than the people who are eating a Big Mac at McDonalds and not thinking anything is wrong with that! Although some vegetarians just pass on the meat, most make extremely cautious food decisions. Many vegetarians buy local or organic produce or mostly grow their own food. No matter if you're a vegetarian or not, you have the right to know where your food is coming from. Many vegetarians wouldn't even be vegetarian if factory farming didn't exist. Even if animals will be going to the slaughterhouse, they deserve the best life possible while they are here on earth.

6/2/2010 5:42:13 PM

LISTEN UP VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN PEOPLE, Which one of you promised Keith a perfect world? This is the "myth" SHE is angry about, that SHE naively believed. So whomever said, "Miss Keith, give up meat and utopia will be achieved", kindly retract your promise so she won't be bitter anymore.

colin donoghue
6/2/2010 10:52:08 AM

This article and the book it is taken from give a very irrational and inaccurate critique of vegetarianism. Firstly, as was previously commented on, to go on about the problems of industrial mono-crop agriculture does not in any way show fault with a plant-based diet. Animal enslavement and consumption has been, and continues to be, the leading cause of environmental destruction and disease. Small-scale veganic food production is the healthiest for humans, the planet and of course the animals. Secondly, the article neglects to mention the crucial issue of animal suffering, and therefore animal rights. Humans do not need to eat animal products for optimum health, therefore there is no valid moral justification for the mass enslavement and murder of these sentient beings for food. Thirdly, the absurd rationalizations given, which the editors of this magazine obviously embrace without deeper thought to comfort themselves for their constant promotion of animal enslavement/exploitation, such as: "Everything has to die" so the murder is "natural", and that this exploitative and violent relationship with animals is "in tune with nature", and that we are "interdependent" like other predator/prey animal relations, are all unprincipled and untrue. Animal husbandry and mass-murder is a major mistake by humanity, one that more and more are facing every year and thereby making the logical and compassionate decision to go vegan, hopefully you will end your denial and do the same.

renee h.
6/1/2010 5:43:05 PM

First, I applaud Mother Earth News for bringing up this tough topic, one that can be so emotionally charged. I do not see in Lierre Keith's article where the solution is addressed. With world population well over 6 billion people, what are the solutions to the problems stated in the article? With so many people on the planet, can human beings give up agricultural practices and exist on grass-fed cattle and other ruminants? Even if this type of existence was feasible by numbers, obviously, such a diet would not be healthy in the long run. Humans need the vitamins and minerals supplied by food from plants. Is it possible for over 6 billion people to exist on foraged plants? Perhaps the immediate, short-term solution is for each individual to find the best way to partake in food consumption while lessening stress on the planet, considering that individual's circumstances: economic, political, moral, religious, etc. For me, living in a city, without access to farmland, but having sufficient economic means, that leads me to buy organic, locally grown when possible, and to be vegan. However, in a different place and with different circumstances, that might not be the best choice, either for me or for the planet. I think I can sum this up that food is a very individual choice based on different criteria, and that we should respect and support each other on any quest to find a healthier plan to feed the human population.

6/1/2010 1:45:24 PM

After reading Lierre Keith’s “The Vegitarian Myth” I was puzzled why she seems to hold vegs responsible for the poor farming practices of big agriculture. It’s like blaming medical marijuana proponents for the problems associated with western medicine. I thought it was common knowledge that Vegs are among the first people to support locally grown sustainably harvested farms and even grow their own food when possible. Similarly, I thought (though we are not the only ones) people were generally aware that vegs are likely to go beyond this and think about where things come from, how they were made, and what impact it has on the planet; not just food but everything we consume like clothes, cleaning products, furniture, transportation etc. Apparently not. I get the impression some folks think vegs eat jelly beans and Boca burgers all day and feel smug about it, so I will explain it in a nutshell. The objective of veganism is to do as little harm to the Earth and all her species. While vegs know its impossible to be perfectly harmless it is an effort made. Why the need to trash this philosophy? Lets ask ourselves, do we think it is the veg mantra to “do no harm” that has “lead us astray” as Keith puts it, OR is it the prevailing “Man has dominion over the Earth” ideology that has corrupted us? It seems so bizarre to me that vegs would be made the fall guy for the agricultural crimes that plague us considering vegans do not have political, cultural, or monetary influence on our society. In fact we are a small minority that opposes the status quo. Keith goes on to describe the horrors of modern agriculture by explaining that many species and many ecosystems were lost. She says, “I want more than just the number of dead and gone. I want them back.” and criticizes vegetarian/veganism because it cannot bring them back. News flask, neither will eating grass fed beef sister. Does Keith want time travel? She’s right, vegs fall short when it comes to bringing animal

adam roberts_6
6/1/2010 12:45:22 PM

I am a vegetarian because I am wholeheartadely against taking the life of a complex living creature for food. However, I also feel that we should try and perseve native ecosystems when we can, and we should do everything in our power to improve our farming practices so that native animals don't have to die. The issue that the author of this article fails to address is that of why factory farms exisit today, and the answer is simply demand. The system that was ulitmiately created was meant to raise the greatest number of animals as quickly as possible in the cheapest way possible, to keep up with the growing demand of meat consumption in the world. There is absoultely no way that that same demand can be satiated through grazing cattle. The demand for meat worldwide cannot rise, period, and it must go down for we are to cope with the growing demand for food in the world. Even if, through some method or another, 50 years from now, the world stops mass producing meat, and everyone eats as desribed in this article, I would still be going meatless. The environmental benefits of going vegetarian, and the healtth benefits of going vegetarian/vegan are simply not why I, or the vast majority of vegetarians/vegans, don't eat meat. We do it because we love life, and given our progress in society, given how far we've gone, we don't think there is anymore a need to kill for food. Of course we do, indirectly, but we work towards the day when this is not the case.

shay bradbury
5/31/2010 8:52:34 PM

Ness, your comments are the epitome of Mr. Keith’s argument against veganism as a morally superior lifestyle. Our very existence means that other organisms must die for us to live, regardless of your diet. Whether you eat “innocent” animals directly or not, it comes down to each person that is alive requires X number of acres to sustain ourselves. Those are acres of land on which the natural ecosystem has been mostly or completely removed. We can each be better members of our environment as long as each of us practices environmentally sustainable consuming habits.

ness belyea_2
5/31/2010 12:43:48 PM

I have not been a vegan for 20 years, but I am very proud to be one, and will continue to be until the day that I die. I certainly did not become this way to save the planet. I embraced vegetarianism for my health, and the health of the great mother earth. I am also a chef, and I understand that a life without animal products simply is not for everyone. I also know that there is absolutley no reason to defend the consumption of the flesh of innocence as a superior tactic to save the world. Human beings are not predators, we do not kill when hungry. Instead we line up faceless animals and mow them down, by the millions, in order to feed a carnivorous craving to be the superior beast. If you want to live as one with the animals - with respect for all things living and the cycles of life than perhaps you should own your own animals, slaughter your own animals and eat only your own animals. Factory farming is not sustainable for anyone or anything. Here on my family farm we grown fresh produce, and we eat and share what the great earth gives us. We work hard to till the earth, sow the seeds and reduce the population of weeds, and we are rewarded with nourishing gifts of plenty. Perhaps if those who choose to consume the flesh of the innocent put as much work into their passion as we do, they may gain a new understanding for “the knowledge that every animal, plant, person, wind and season is indebted to the fruit of everything else..." A true adult knowledge.

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