Vegetarianism: hazardous to you and the planet?

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Are vegetarians dupes of industrial agriculture? Photo: LancerenoK via Flickr.

We don’t have cable TV, but even I know that Jersey Shore’s Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino just came out with a new diet to help you get tight six-pack abs like his.

“If you wanna look somewhat like ‘The Situation’, which is definitely gonna’ be pretty hard,” Sorrentino says, “you need to get that protein in your diet.”

By contrast, Lierre Keith is famous not for her abs but for being a “recovering vegan.” Yet, like The Situation, Keith advocates for protein and promotes meat in her own controversial diet book, The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability.

The high cost of no Price

Keith’s conversion from sprouts-and-tofu to steak-and-eggs came when she decided that the problem with the modern diet wasn’t meat but rather industrial agriculture. She was helped by the theories of dentist and diet-iconoclast Weston Price, who found that traditional peoples around the world had better teeth and enjoyed better overall physical and mental health than we did.

Like Price, Keith came to believe that if you get your food — including meat — whole, organic and unprocessed, both you and the planet will be healthier than relying on a Cargill-pushed diet of subsidized, mass-produced refined grains and sugars.

And humans’ really big brains? Keith says that evidence from evolution points to a diet of meat.

“We have the largest brain of any primate and we have the smallest digestive tract,” Keith tells Janaia Donaldson of Peak Moment TV. “How are you going to feed that brain? Our brains use 25% of the energy and you’re not going to get that out of plants. There’s just not enough energy.”

I don’t need no stinkin’ brains

Of course, with climate change, peak oil, Wall Street “financial innovation” and the Japanese nuclear plant emergency, humans’ big brains just ain’t what they used to be.

Sometimes I wonder if the world would be better off if we all just gave our brains a rest for a while and started focusing instead on tight abs. Fewer credit-default swaps and more crunches?

But whether you’re a fan of brains or abs, it would seem that high-protein diets have something for you.

Peak Moment TVWatch Janaia Donaldson’s interview with author Lierre Keith, “The Vegetarian Myth,” brought to you through Transition Voice’s new partnership with Peak Moment TV.

— Erik Curren

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  1. Amanda says

    It is a pity that somebody, who has obviously failed miserably to feed herself correctly on a vegan diet, now feels the need to justify this failing by condemning veganism and vegetarianism in this almost desperate polemic. She talks with such passion and integrity that one feels she is privy to knowledge that has passed the rest of us by. Unfortunately, she isn’t. Keith’s book contains many fundamental flaws and inaccuracies which have been roundly condemned by those far more qualified than herself.

    While space does not permit me to counter all Keith’s arguments, I have to take issue with the main issue which led her to write this book in the first place. Keith claims she was vegan and it ruined her health. She was not in fact vegan and “binged on eggs and dairy” at every chance she got. This she admitted in an interview on an American radio station (KPFA radio, 10 October 2010). Nobody eating a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet needs to binge periodically on food. At this point we should seriously start questioning her motives for writing this book.

    I felt uncomfortable watching this video and felt that it did not sit right.. There is a mountain of evidence suggesting a vegan diet is an extremely healthy way to eat and can have a very low environmental impact. It is proven sustainable. Isn’t this what we want? I fail to understand why one woman would put so much energy into condemning it so vociferously. I fail to understand why she is given so much airplay.

    • anonymous says

      Thank you Amanda! I felt almost sick to my stomach listening this Lierre Keith speak with such preposterous arrogance on this video, as though she were an MD and nutrition expert. It is clear from her remarks in this video that she is woefully misinformed, and/or deliberately misleading the public with her misinformation. Sadly, anyone can call themselves expert on any subject, and have unquestioning followers.

    • Joshua Matthews says

      Thanks, Amanda. I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way. You sum up my feelings and thoughts extremely well. It’s just a shame that so many people believe this book to be some kind of “revelation”. I can’t help but wonder whether Lierre, herself, actually knows it’s a very inaccurate, cobbled-together pile of very cherry-picked nonsense from unqualified authors.

      Lierre uses so many mind-tricks to attempt to convince the unqualified listener to take it all in. Including using stereotypes of vegans (naive. stubborn, angry, simple-minded etc.) to gain the trust of the reader/listener/viewer. She’s kind of like a lawyer, politician, dictator who is not really interested in the truth. Just getting people to follow her blindly. She never presents a single piece of positivity about the vegan diet and tries to dismiss healhy, long-term vegans by claiming that ALL vegans cheat and imply that those healthy ones are really getting their nutrition from meat and dairy. She is such a dishonest person and she must know it.

  2. Ashley says

    I had a pit in my stomach for hours after listening to this. I think that there is something seriously wrong with this woman. She is not a nutritionist and is by no means qualified to preach what she is about veganism. She states that humans are meant to eat meat because in prehistoric times we did. Guess what? Humans had far different enzymes for meat digestion as well as a functioning appendix! Can we safely digest raw meat now days? No, we cannot. Her claim that being vegan ruined her health is a total cop out for an underlying issue. If she feels that way then she was not eating balanced or perhaps she was hoping her body would look better being vegan and it didn’t? Whatever the reason, a balanced vegan diet has been proven healthy.

  3. radicallymoderate says

    BRAVO!! Brave lady for speaking her mind. And the truth- which is that hardcore vegan diets are not the answer for optimal human health. Yes it’s necessary to expand beyond the ‘typical’ refined American diet of too much meat, junk food, etc… by learning to make all kinds of vegetarian recipes. BUT the fact remains that humans evolved being OMNIVORES. If the problem is industrial farming, then industrial agriculture is just as bad. If the problem is eating animals– sorry, I love animals too.. but humans evolved by eating animals and guess what, animals eat other animals. Does that make them evil too..? I find all the REFINED ‘fake meat’ products, and refined soy products, etc.. (that are just as damaging to the environment, and who knows what it’s doing to our health) highly suspect. But the hard-core vegetarians & vegans out there are seriously in denial, narrow-minded and will do or say anything to support their radical agenda. If you dare disagree or question their beliefs, they get nasty. So it’s kind of ironic and I find it all incredibly hypocritical. And if their diet is so perfect and healthy, WHY are there so many sickly looking vegetarians out there.. and WHY do they have to take so many artificial pills & supplements…??
    At least we have the choice to grow as much of our own food as we can, support local farmers, try to buy as much organic as possible. The fact is, humans need a balanced, varied diet with lots of fruit/veg/whole grains with seafood, and quality, free-range, grass-fed meat & eggs. And many people also need/thrive on dairy (depending on your genetic makeup). And no I’m not talking about a cheeseburger 3x/day. I’m talking about some quality red meat, even if it’s once or twice a month. ESPECIALLY for women….! Beyond that, quit being so neurotic about food (which is a ‘first world problem’ if there ever was one..) and be glad you have enough to eat in the first place!

    • Joshua Matthews says

      There’s nothing brave about bashing a tiny minority. She’s a fraud and a liar with no qualifications.

  4. Mary says

    “Free range”, “grass fed”, “happy meat” = another marketing gimmick the food industry stamps on packaging to get you to pay more for their crap.

    Most of the time we eat what we eat nd drink what we drink because it is cheap and convenient to produce (cow milk),

    If you haven’t educated yourself about food and nutrition you will not be a healthy vegan, vegetarian, or meat eater.

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