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The Vegetarian Myth, a book review by Matthew Romans

A few weeks ago a colleague sent me a video interview with Lierre Keith, who is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. The interview covered a wide variety of subjects, but discussed at length was the vegan lifestyle and philosophy, as well as modern agriculture. I have to admit that when I saw the subject heading of the video I was skeptical, but as I started to watch the interview I became more intrigued. I discovered that Ms. Keith lived as a vegan for twenty years, and in the interview she touched on how she got into that lifestyle and what eventually caused her to rethink her choices. I was so impressed by the interview that I purchased and read her book "The Vegetarian Myth", and there are some takeaways from the book that I would like to share with you.

The author explains the reasons why most people embrace the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, and the close links to the animal rights movement:

-First are moral vegetarians, who believe it is wrong to kill animals for any reason.

-Second are political vegetarians. According to Ms. Keith, "these vegetarians aren't looking for truths about sustainability or justice. They're looking for the small slice of facts that will shore up their ideology, their identities."

-Finally, there are nutritional vegetarians, who live the lifestyle because they believe it is inherently healthier than a more ancestrally-based diet.

While most vegetarians are sincere in their beliefs, they fail to understand a couple of things. First, nature has no moral code. As Ms. Keith says "nature is no more moral than immoral. It's amoral, by definition." Both animals and plants in the wild are either predator or prey, and all living things must eventually die. Second, we humans were not designed to live on a diet solely consisting of plants and grains. Cows can live exclusively on grass; the bacteria in their stomachs digest the cellulose from the grass, and in turn, the cow consumes the bacteria. This is how cows have evolved to live, but we humans are largely carnivores. We were designed to eat primarily meat and fat, and it in no small part contributed to our larger brains and our ability to reason.

Another concept that vegetarians fail to recognize (or willfully ignore) is that exclusively plant and grain-based diets are nutritionally deficient and can lead to a greater risk of the so-called "diseases of modern civilization", due to a higher insulin response (insulin must be secreted by the pancreas in order for the nutrients to reach the cells). These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancer. The author details the extent of the physical damage she suffered as a result of the vegan lifestyle: a degenerative disc condition in her back, crippling depression (as a result of eating no meat and very little saturated fat, which affects serotonin production and inhibits your brain's neurotransmitters), constantly feeling like she had an upper respiratory infection, and permanently damaged insulin receptors. Some of this damage was lessened or reversed as a result of switching to a more ancestrally-appropriate diet (plenty of meat, fat, and vegetables/fruits), but some of it is irreversible.

The section of the book I found particularly interesting was where Ms. Keith discusses the damage that modern agriculture has done to the topsoil. She talks about the dust bowl conditions in the midwest United States in the 1930s, particularly in Oklahoma (this should be familiar to anyone who has read John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath") as a result of overplowing cotton and wheat. This destruction of the topsoil has a disastrous effect on trees, grasses, and birds. The topsoil is the most nutrient-dense part of the soil, and planting crops like corn and wheat deplete the soil of valuable nutrients very quickly. Irrigation and artificial damming have had a negative impact on fish populations, particularly in the Mississippi River.

Something else to consider about modern agriculture's impact has to do with the U.S. government's policy of subsidization. Corn is cheap and readily available as a result of this policy, and large farms use it to feed their livestock, particularly chickens, pigs, and cows. While corn will make the animals grow much faster than their native diet, it will also make them sick. They have to be injected with antibiotics in order to combat the sickness prior to slaughter, and unfortunately those antibiotics get passed along to the consumer. This is why it is safer and more nutritious to buy meats from animals that are raised on their natural diet.

While I may disagree with the author on a few political points (particularly her opinions on climate change), I think her book is well-researched (she references a few authors of which I am familiar) and full of important information. "The Vegetarian Myth" provides solid evidence to support an ancestrally-appropriate nutritional philosophy based on human biology and evolution; it also ruffled quite a few feathers within the vegan community. Ms. Keith's twenty year experience with the vegan lifestyle gives her a unique perspective and credibility with readers. If you are interested in optimizing your health (as a Total Results client or prospective client, I know you are) or looking to explode myths, this is a book I highly recommend.

Posted May 16, 2019 by Tim Rankin