New Internationalist

The Vegetarian Myth

May 2010
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Lierre Keith has written a passionately argued, highly personal, and deeply informative book about the destructive and unsustainable nature of modern day agriculture – but disguised it as an argument against vegetarianism. Based on her experience of 20 years as a malnourished vegetarian/vegan, she tidily lays out her critique by considering three categories of vegetarian: moral vegetarians, who she accuses of arbitrarily drawing lines between species that are allowed to be eaten and those that are not; political vegetarians, who argue that a 10-acre farm can feed 60 people growing soybeans but only two producing cattle (she disagrees by referring to the productivity of ‘polyculture farming’); and nutritional vegetarians who consider it healthier to stay away from animal fats (she outlines the dangers of polyunsaturated fats and the risks of mineral deficiencies). While the book offers plenty of interesting facts to counter a number of vegetarian assumptions, the overriding premise is that since agricultural systems depend on fertilizers (fossil fuel or animal derived), a vegetarian diet is invariably connected to the destruction of landscapes and depletion of resources. Yet she fails to point out that a number of farms have been actively experimenting with animal-free organic productive systems for decades. She does, however, offer some final words of advice, perhaps to assuage critics that she hasn’t been hired by an anti-environmentalist lobby group: 1 Refrain from having children; 2 Stop driving a car;
3 Grow your own food.


This column was published in the May 2010 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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