The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability

The Vegetarian Myth

We’ve been told that a vegetarian diet can feed the hungry, honor the animals, and save the planet. Lierre Keith believed in that plant-based diet and spent twenty years as a vegan. But in The Vegetarian Myth, she argues that we’ve been led astray–not by our longings for a just and sustainable world, but by our ignorance.

The truth is that agriculture is a relentless assault against the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. In service to annual grains, humans have devastated prairies and forests, driven countless species extinct, altered the climate, and destroyed the topsoil–the basis of life itself. Keith argues that if we are to save this planet, our food must be an act of profound and abiding repair: it must come from inside living communities, not be imposed across them.

Part memoir, part nutritional primer, and part political manifesto, The Vegetarian Myth will challenge everything you thought you knew about food politics.


This book saved my life. Not only does The Vegetarian Myth make clear how we should be eating, but also how the dominant food system is killing the planet. This necessary book challenges many of the destructive myths we live by and offers us a way back into our bodies, and back into the fight to save the planet. – Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame and A Language Older than Words

Everyone who eats should read this book. Everyone who eats vegetarian should memorize it… This is the single most important book I’ve ever read on diet, agriculture, and ecology. – Aric McBay, author of What We Leave Behind and Peak Oil Survival

About the Author:

Lierre Keith is a writer, small farmer, and radical feminist activist. She is the author of two novels and is currently co-writing a book with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay about strategy for the environmental movement. She splits her time between Northampton, MA and Humboldt, CA.

Rhamis Kent

Rhamis Kent is a consultant with formal training in mechanical engineering (University of Delaware, B.S.M.E. '95) and permaculture-based regenerative whole systems design. He has previously worked for the renowned American inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen at DEKA Research & Development, with subsequent engineering work ranging from medical device research and development to aerospace oriented mechanical design. After taking an interest in the design science of Permaculture, he sought extended training with permaculture expert and educator Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. This led to his involvement with design work connected to the development of Masdar City in UAE after Mr. Lawton and his consulting company (Permaculture Sustainable Consultancy Pty. Ltd.) were contracted by AECOM/EDAW to identify solutions which fit the challenging zero emissions/carbon neutral design constraint of the project.


  1. Lierre is a very confused woman. She has taken the ideas of Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, The Story of B), which are deep and profound and has spun them into a misguided discreditation of the vegan diet. Where she apes the arguments of Quinn, she is quite correct, her own conclusions on the other hand are completely misplaced.

    Modern agriculture is a huge problem and meat eating is the driving force behind it. Most of the soya and corn reaches people through cows, chickens and pigs – creating vast pollution in its wake. Thus, eating meat is no solution at all, it is in fact most of the problem.

    The vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on whether you know what to eat. Obviously, Lierre did not and fell ill. For every such vegan, there are thousands of meat eaters who regained their health by droping meat from their diets. Neither proves much. You can just as easily be allergic to wheat as to pork, and if you eat it, you will not be healthy. This is her own lack of knowledge and her own confusion.

    I am saddened that the wonderful idea of permaculture is being associated with this garbled story, which ultimately shields industrial agriculture from change by encouraging the consumption of meat. This is not in the interest of mankind, and it does not benefit the promotion of permaculture.

  2. Preaching to the Converted!

    The title of this book is extremely misleading, this is not a vegetarian myth, this is the “Food Myth” and has no more to do with vegetarians than meat eaters!

    This is a quote from this video; “Even on the farthest fringes of the environmental movement – no-one is questioning agriculture. They don’t know that they should and they don’t know how.”

    Is this some kind of joke? What have we all been doing in the Permaculture movement for the last 31 years?

    Everything she says is on the mark, but the comment above belittles the widespread and ongoing dedicated work of the Permaculture Community.

    Some other views . . . . .

    ‘VEGAN – PUNK – PERMACULTURE’ – https://www.spiralseed.co.uk/

    Plants For A Future is a resource centre for rare and unusual plants, particularly those which have edible, medicinal or other uses. We practise vegan-organic permaculture with emphasis on creating an ecologically sustainable environment based largely on perennial plants.


    Care of the Earth?


  3. Ideally for the sake of the Biosphere, we should return to our original “Hunter-Gatherer” mode of living.

    Whilst being a Vegan may be two steps short of the Ideal, remaining status quo is larger than the lesser of two evils.

    Seriously, I am thinking we should be eating edible bugs for proteins and not killing them off with chemicals.

    Permaculture with the inclusion of bugs hunting may be the ultimate solution to the problem of sustainability the world is threatened with now.

  4. While my local library does not have a copy of this book so I have not read it yet, the reviews and the author’s writings I have read seem to conflate a vegetarian diet with agriculture. While it’s true many vegetarians buy their food from the agriculture-industrial complex, there are some that eat local and produce most of their food themselves. How is this “unsustainable”? The whole argument of what is more productive to grow seems to me to depend heavily on local ecologies. Saying everyone should raise livestock everywhere seems contradictory to the principles of permaculture.

    As far as health goes, there are many examples of cultures (sects of Hindis, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Seventh-day Adventists, etc.) who have lived long lives off non-meat diets.

    Arguing whether or not it is ethical to slaughter animals for consumption seems to me to be a more spiritual choice, dependent on one’s own belief system.

  5. I think the comments that are most useful are from people who have actually read the book. Keith believes that conventional mono-agriculture is killing the planet. She also believes that most vegetarians and vegans whose diets are centered on grain production don’t know this. People who eat conventionally raised meat AND eat mono-culture grains are worse yet for the planet. But her plea was to open the eyes of vegetarians who may not be aware that their diet of soy beans and wheat severely undermines their efforts to save the planet.
    Another one of her points is that you can’t have life without death. And the vegan notion that you can eat without using other living things is problematic.

  6. I always find it fascinating to watch the storm cloud arise when vegetarianism is discussed, there is always passion on every side. Lierre has chosen to share her experience with anyone who is interested, I think its always a good sign to see someone do a backflip on their convictions and have the guts to tell everyone about it, regardless of the subject.
    Vegetarianism has never been part of the Permaculture mantra,and permaculturists should always tread lightly on this subject so as not offend anyone of either persuasion.By my understanding, permaculture promotes the creation of hunter-gatherer systems,amongst other things,as they are soil creating. On all topics regarding Permaculture I often think to myself, “what would Bill say about this” Keep up the good work, everyone Carolyn Payne

  7. Interestingly, it seems that some of Lierre’s points have been missed (or ignored) by some of those commenting here…and the assumption that permaculture is somehow synonymous with being a vegan or vegetarian is completely erroneous & unfounded. I know for certain Geoff doesn’t advocate for that and I know Bill would find it laughable. We slaughter animals at Zaytuna Farm and eat meat on the Zaytuna Farm…both done so in a humane fashion.

    The idea that being a vegan/vegetarian is a higher moral or ethical calling is without basis – and Lierre does a great job in making that case. However, whether or not a person chooses to eat meat or not should be honored as being just that – a personal choice made by an individual, and that should be respected.

    I think we can all agree that there are much better ways in which we can (and should) care for the Earth and all life on it and in it.

    THE central fact of life is that everything dies – us included. Life & death play their respective roles in keeping balance on this planet. This is something that native & pre-modern peoples have had no problem in acknowledging. We modern, civilized & enlightened folks seem to have an issue with that.

    Are we to suggest that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were less moral or ethical beings than those of us who have chosen to not partake in the consumption of meat? Or were they more environmentally unaware?

    It’s not my intention to engage in an argument, just for the record.

  8. Sankar:

    You apparently have not read the book, at least not very carefully. Nowhere in it does she advocate for industrial agriculture in the least. If anything, it’s the exact opposite.

    True, most of the crops in industrial ag are raised to feed cattle/livestock. However, what about the livestock raised on grasses – which would be the type Lierre would be referring to? They’re far healthier animals to eat, by any measure.

    For those that hunt (and eat what you hunt), you are doing a service in helping to check overpopulation of deer and (in the case of Australia) kangaroo.

    If people are going to critique Lierre on the merits of her arguments, do so without misquoting her arguments.

    1. In order to feed everybody on Earth with grass fed beef you would need the surface area of several planet Earth. It wouldn’t work. That is why they are cutting down the forests to grow soy to feed the cattle on feedlots.

  9. Vegetarian and vegan diets are fine for people to commit to if they take responsibility for how their food is produced and its energy and environmental costs.

    The easiest, safest and healthiest way to do this is to grow all your our own food locally in a garden,

    All the food required for one person on a vegetarian or vegan diet can be produced sustainably on 200 square meters of area with inputs of local organic matter, as long as you are prepared to eat only what can be grow locally.

  10. I am thoroughly dissapointed with the connection between the Permaculture Research Institute and this thoroughtly unsophisticated article and book!!!!

  11. What hapend about the old “observing of patterns”?
    If something in nature worked for a long time isn’t it worth investigating, like hunter gatherers living for a long time in pristeen enviroments with very good health eating plant AND animals, as found by Weston Price what are we doing with a diet with a track record that’s not even a 100 years old, unless I am some holy Guru sitting on me butt the hole day,not working or having kids, not eating good healthy meat has not passed the test of time. Lierre can’t be more right!

  12. Max’s comment…”what are we doing with a diet with a track record that’s not even a 100 years old, unless I am some holy Guru sitting on me butt the hole day,not working or having kids, not eating good healthy meat has not passed the test of time”…is incorrect. There are millions of families around the world, hundreds of generations of which haven’t eaten meat or eggs at all. They haven’t gone extinct as yet.

  13. In a nutshell: Permaculture is either a system implemented to achieve ecological balance in a world out of balance OR something exclusively for people interested in adopting an alternative lifestyle on the fringes of society.

    The two are mutually exclusive. I believe permaculture is too important an idea to be confined only to those who desire to live on the fringes. Permaculture should be adopted on the merits of its effectiveness as a system – not a lifestyle choice.

  14. The comments on this post are the most interesting read here for quite some time – Im all smiles. Meanwhile the birds are singing at Zatuna Farm.

  15. I am thoroughly dissapointed with the connection between the Permaculture Research Institute and this thoroughtly unsophisticated article and book!!!! – Katherine Kazzulka

    I thought this post may provoke a little discussion. :)

    For Katherine: I think posts like this have a lot of merit, because they get us talking.

    For Everyone: I haven’t read the book myself. But my thoughts, for what it’s worth…:

    Firstly, I won’t suffer fools on the vegetarian issue. I’ve met some who demand that we ‘must’ eat meat or we’ll get sick and/or die. That is complete rubbish. Many of our modern lifestyle diseases (diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer) are directly related to high meat and dairy consumption instead. I’ve travelled in Sri Lanka, where the majority are either Buddhist or Hindi (about 82%), which hold non-violence towards living creatures as extremely important. From my observations, if you want to eat meat in that country, you’ve almost got to go out of your way to find it. Centuries of vegetarianism doesn’t seem to have affected the vigor of these people one iota. Talking about vigor – check with the world’s best athletes. The silverback gorilla is many times stronger than man, and, with the exception of the occasional pillaging of an ant’s nest, they eat only plants. People that say we ‘have’ to eat meat, on a physiological level, are confusing desire with need.

    As you can tell, I am a vegetarian myself (I’ve been vegan at different times for many, many years as well). At least I am vegetarian wherever possible. In some of the places I travel, it isn’t so easy without a serious restriction in dietary intake (eating plain rice three times per day for more than a few days tends to make me want to throw up…). The ‘restrictions’ imposed are seriously exacerbated by the current international food swap paradigm we live in. We live in a globalised, specialised world, where enormous quantities of just one or two things are grown across vast expanses of our local landscapes. To ‘eat local’ in some places seriously limits what you can eat.

    For example, if you weren’t growing your own food, imagine what your diet would be if you lived in Iowa, and were trying to ‘eat local’ there. That’s right, you’d be pretty much eating only genetically modified corn – and it’s not even the kind suitable for direct consumption. Imagine yourself in many other places around the world, where you’d be subject to other large scale specialisations.

    Eating healthy as a vegetarian requires a reasonable nutrient mix. You should eat from a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Our bodies are very good at getting the most out of what we give them, and they’re very adaptable, but just as with our gardens, for optimal health, diversity is stability. In order to get that variety, if you choose to eat products sourced from around the world you’re eating a diet that is only possible with a fossil fuel based economy, and which couldn’t have existed 100 years ago, and will not exist much longer for most. If you’re a vegetarian in the UK, for example, and you get the necessary fat for your diet (some fat is essential) from avocados from central America, and/or olives from the mediterranean, then you’re part of the globalised, fuel-based system that is destroying our planet and thousands of cultures.

    It is clear to me that industrial agriculture, and the globalised model of trade it has given birth to, is by far the biggest culprit in environmental destruction out of all other human activities. And, as the colour-by-numbers type of agriculture we practise has freed 98% of the western population to do anything other than work the land, we’re now free to do all the ‘other’ destructive activities too (like creating consumption-based goods and services that we do not need, but cannot live another day without). If you want to argue of relative merits, if you compare a meat based industrial diet with a vegetarian based industrial diet, the vegetarian one does come out superior in terms of being ‘less bad’. For example, although tofu eaters have a part to play in Amazon destruction, 90% of the soybeans produced on land ‘retrieved’ from the Amazon forest are actually used to feed livestock. See the clip at bottom of this post. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for either livestock or cars. The conversion ratio of land/water/soil used to feed a person directly (i.e. vegetarian) via feeding them indirectly (via livestock), is ridiculous (about 1:8 for beef when considering land use alone – and water use differences are far more astronomical). For more details on the implications of a meat-based diet on our planet, check out John Robbins’ excellent ‘Food Revolution‘ (parts here, here, here, here and here).

    The reality is that to eat a ‘moral’ diet depends on a lot more than just whether you eat meat or not. Eating locally is critical. Eating locally is one of the ways for how we will shift agriculture, and thus our social constructs, and put it back onto a path towards maximum diversity – which in turn gets us out of the pesticide treadmill, and enables us to rebuild our soils and our communities. Now, if you choose to eat only local – from your own garden and your immediate local region – you certainly have your work cut out for you. This is true whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater.

    In times past, traditional people in different places developed societies and economies that were based around the need to produce the food items that would maintain them. They also worked with limited seed stocks from their local region. Today we base our society and our economies around arbitrary schedules set by industry instead. The clock on the wall runs our lives, not the needs of our bodies or our environment. The oil era has brought massive change to our perceived priorities. Food has been devalued over the last several decades, as the true cost of producing food has been externalised – instead of maintaining/investing in our land, we’ve raped and devoured it – which has given us several decades of stupidly cheap food. That era is over, and I anticipate prices to steadily increase over the ensuing years. Now we must start reinvesting in our land. But how to rebuild/reshape an economy and society that allows us to do so is the challenge at hand. For those with a 40 or 60 hour working week, the thought of growing and processing wheat, in a sustainable fashion, for example, is inconceivable – particularly as almost none of us have the necessary space/land/time to do so.

    Arguing over the ethics of being vegetarian or eating meat is thus a distraction. Learning how to get the best nutrition – sustainably – from the least amount of land should really be our subject of study. If that is our aim, I think the usefulness of animals (i.e. their habits – like ‘weed’-eating, ‘pest’-eating, nitrogen-supplying chickens, or ground-compacting but manure-supplying cattle, etc.) will start to be objectively examined for their relative merits, and weighed accordingly. If we live in limited space, why would we keep cows when we can get much more nutrition from far less land via plant foods? At the same time, if our specific climate makes growing certain essentials difficult, we may have no choice but to eat animals (try telling an Inuit to go veg). Questions of what we can grow in our climate must come into play. And when I say ‘what we can grow’, I mean what we can grow without excessive energy inputs. I’m sure we could find a way to grow bananas in Alberta if we really had a mind to. It might be clever, but it certainly wouldn’t be sensible or sustainable. We can stretch latitudes with Permaculture systems, by creating warmer or cooler microclimates through use of sensible design – making use of aspect, bodies of water, trellising, etc., and we today have the possibility of developing the kind of diversity that traditional folk from days gone by could only dream of (due to our ability to share seed strains from similar climate zones around the world) but at the end of the day, we want to aim at eating those foods that will give the most output for the least inputs of energy and labour. Unless we learn to do this, we will fail, and the greater the difference between our inputs and outputs, the sooner it will happen.

    The reality is we really do not realise how hard it is to eat only what we and our neighbours grow ourselves. It entails working, functionally, with a community around you. It entails a little more than just working in the back yard on Saturday afternoons to harvest a few tomatoes and apples, before driving down to the supermarket for the rest.

    Those of you with land (hankerchief sized or otherwise) you have the possibility of a post-peak oil rehearsal. (We have wedding rehearsals, so why not survival rehearsals?) Start thinking about the land you have, and how you can stack functions and maximise diversity and output, whilst keeping a careful check on what inputs are coming into the system. Aim at reducing these as quickly as possible so the system begins to maintain itself. Arguments over whether to eat meat or be vegetarian will give way to deliberating over the benefits of fertilisation between a leguminous cover crop and your cow’s manure, in relation to space constraints, water consumption, biomass, beneficial insect habitat, etc. etc. If a vegetarian diet is part of your game plan – great! But, find a way to make it work in a way where its production is not a subtraction from the global resource bank. Same goes for meat eaters. Consider the space/water/energy requirements of your desired animal, and contrast this with the potential services of plants and/or less energy intensive animals.

    The solution for one location will be different for another. Nobody can get on a high horse here, as what’s good for one, won’t be good for another. We’re so used to the one-size fits all approaches of conventional agriculture, that our massive loss of precious, hard-learnt, traditional, localised knowledge is barely noticed by most of us. Regain this knowledge! Then once you have a system that works, please tell us about it. If you can provide for you and yours from a small plot of land, with or without animals in the system, you’ll be better qualified to tell us your thoughts on the morality of diet.

  16. Wow! Thank you Craig for that in-depth response. I was waiting for that actually. I think you hit all the points there. I myself am a veg. because of my spiritual path and also health reasons. I actually have more energy when I eat “live” food than meat. But you are correct in saying that both veg and meat eaters have to take responsiblitly of where are food is coming from. Great topic to post for conversation.

  17. Nice one, Craig Mac…I believe you pegged the real issue: eating locally in a manner than doesn’t harm your environment or disrupt the ecological balance – whether or not that involves consuming meat.

    I think the heart of this discussion about meat/no meat is rooted in what avails itself as being a convenient source of local food. If the local vegetation for one reason or another doesn’t allow for someone to restrict themselves to eating just plant-based food and animals of one variety or another are plentiful, then there’s your food.

    The morality issue in this context is a red herring.

  18. So does the author address in the book the issue that it might be OK to eat a non-meat diet depending on the local ecologies and with an integrated polyculture system?

  19. Rob,

    Lierre has basically written the book in 3 sections addressing the major categories of vegetarians:

    Moral Vegetarians
    Political Vegetarians
    Nutritional Vegetarians

    She fleshes out the main issues and arguments and covers them on their merits according to her experiences in facing them herself. The last chapter is called “To Save The World”.

    All I can say is that it deserves a read – a careful, objective one. A passage I found particularly powerful in the Moral Vegetarians chapter is a follows (from pg. 76-77):

    “‘Thou shalt not kill’ – or the Buddhist version ‘Abstain from killing’ – is a fine moral guideline for human society. It is nonsensical when applied to the natural world…Nature is no more moral than it is immoral. It’s amoral by definition. Life is literally a process of one creature eating another, whether its bacteria breaking down plants or animals, plants strangling each other, animals going for the throat, or viruses attacking animals. ‘All of nature is a conjugation of the verb ‘to eat’, in the words of William Ralph Inge.”

    “The paradigm that asks us to reject death certainly provides a simple ethical code, a code that can rally the righteous, but it is the black-and-white thinking of a child. The tremendous moral vigor that is the gift of youth seems to demand such rules, but they are essentially slogans and ethical platitudes, which are the root of fundamentalism. Adult knowledge demands more, starting with new information, and it includes the ability to incorporate that new information, to recast as necessary the behaviors informed by our values. Adults don’t just absorb, they learn. The challenge of adulthood is to remember our ethical dreams and visions in the face of the complexities and frank disappointments of reality.”

    “I used ideology like a sledgehammer and I thought I could bend the world to my demands. I couldn’t. The needs of the soil, the truth of the carbon cycle, and the nutritional requirements of the basic human template were a reality of brute, physical facts that would not be moved. I had built my entire identity on death being an ethical taboo, a moral horror, one that provoked a visceral shudder through body and soul. But ‘death-free’ is not an option that the processes of life offer us.

    “‘We can dominate or we can participate, but there’s no way out,’ a friend who grows her own food offered.”

    “We can rail and cry all we want, but in the end we have to make peace with the world, the good, green earth we claim to love so much but understand not at all. In dreams begin responsibilities, yes, but with understanding comes more. Eventually we see our only choices: the death that’s destroying life or the death that’s a part of life.”

  20. ‘I know for certain Geoff doesn’t advocate for that and I know Bill would find it laughable.’…..Rhamis, it appears the ‘gods’ have spoken!!!

  21. So the author is essentially saying since I can’t avoid killing some plants and microorganisms, I should just slaughter some cows, chickens, goats, and whatever I’d like for my consumption while I am at it? I’m sorry but that’s just not me and I’m perplexed while the author has a hard time accepting this. Just as I see humans different than animals, I see animals different than plants. If you don’t that’s fine, it’s your own opinion. It’s like telling someone their religion is incorrect, pretty futile in my humble opinion.

    The whole claim of a single diet meeting the “nutritional requirements of the basic human template” are dubious. We can survive on a variety of foods. There are very old, healthy vegetarian cultural traditions around the world as proof, just as there are many traditions that include meat. Why can’t we accept that humans vary widely and there is no universal diet, just like there are no universal solutions devoid of local context?

    Rhamis, I enjoy your posts and would love to believe you as well as the others I have spoken with that this book deserves my time and money over the other hundreds of books I’d like to acquire and read with the little disposable income I have. But I have yet to see why and I am puzzled in seeing it being so heavily promoted. What I have gotten so far is that due to her own personal health complications the author has it out for non-meat eaters with some divisive ethics and a general critique of agriculture (that can apply to any diet). Hasn’t the Weston Price Foundation been saying the same thing for years?

  22. Check it out, folks: You can do whatever you want…eat meat, don’t eat meat…run around naked with wads of money in both hands daring people to rob you…really – whatever you want.

    Our actions affect the world around us and vice versa. There are basic facts & realities that go above and beyond our personal politics that we can choose to pay attention to or ignore.

    I don’t believe anyone here is advocating for people to run out and start stabbing animals in the neck for their dinner.

    Nobody is ‘promoting’ the book. It was suggested that this would be a publication covering a topic of interest that could make for a stimulating discussion – and it has indeed provided us with exactly that.

    I think she has accomplished something pretty remarkable by challenging herself and her beliefs in as objective a manner as one could possibly expect. It obviously wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination – but her desire to be true to her aim of doing as little harm to the Earth as reasonably possible prompted her to change course in some very significant ways.

    There’s no ulterior motive or underlying agenda I assure you. I have no interest in trying to ‘convert’ people – that’s not my place. But I firmly stand by the idea that sometimes we are slow to let go of notions or beliefs that have little or no basis in fact and are frankly rooted in ignorance.

    Geoff & Craig mentioned in an earlier post that the key is to eat from food sources as close to home as possible. For some, that would include the consumption of meat – be it wild game or domesticated animals raised and cared for in your immediate area. For others, it would come mostly in the form of annuals & perinnials(sp?) close by. That’s really what it comes down to.

    A wise man once said (paraphrasing): “If you are ignorant about a matter, don’t be afraid to admit your ignorance…and once you have admitted your ignorance, don’t be afraid to learn about it.”

    For what it’s worth…

  23. This post has certainly shown how passion can over-ride a person’s capacity for critical thought. How many people have started their posts with something like “I haven’t read this book but…”. If you haven’t read the book how can you possibly suppose that you can try and debunk the arguments that are contained within it. I have just started reading the book and can have seen some things that I take issue with already but I can also see that it is going to be a great read but I will save any criticism I have until I have ACTUALLY READ THE WHOLE BOOK! The last thing the world needs is for people to be so close minded that they can dismiss something like this book by supposing that they know everything that the author is going to say.

  24. I only saw the trailor.I got the impression she does not grow anything and is fasinated with intellectual conceptualising.Pretty sad,particularly when compared to other high quality information available on the Permaculture site.I certainly do not eat our animals,and a vegetarian diet suits my soils perfectly.If I abandoned my eating habits I would consider I had failed 30 years of small scale productive agricultural evolution – of which vegetarianism is a central part.

  25. Evan Young, I agree with you. I have read the book and found it a fascinating read. I don’t agree with everything she says, but that doesn’t mean that what she says is incorrect or untrue, it just means I have a different opinion. Still, you have to read the book in order to be able to HAVE an opinion about it – many people on this comment list and others I’ve read don’t which baffles me quite a bit.

    What I find also find interesting is to see how angrily the vegetarian/vegan community has responded to this book, and to the author personally as well (including attacks on her while she was giving a talk).

    Ok, so vegetarian/vegan people say they value life, so much so that they won’t eat other living beings. What Keith is trying to explain in her book is that even if you don’t eat animals directly, as a human you are still indirectly involved in animal deaths simply by displacement of habitat to make space for the rice fields, the grain fields, and the soyabean fields. It’s the sheer number of humans (and in this case in the western world in particular) that need feeding, be it vegetarian, vegan, or including meat, that is an issue. It’s not a personal attack on anybody, it’s just a fact of life of having to feed a western world. Watch the documentary ‘Our Daily Bread’ and you’ll get an idea of what food production (both meat and vegetable) involves in our society, it’s NOT a pretty picture.

    And if you say you value life, you have to look at the whole picture of our western world and food production. This also includes how many offspring you produce to burden an already overburdened world (yes I’m still talking about the western world, overpopulation is not just an issue of the third world). Do you have one child or less? Do you care enough about the planet and other life on the planet to consider having just one kid or no kids at all? Those are all questions that come into this discussion, not just whether you eat local or not, or whether you eat meat or not.

    So how come that no one has actually responded as to what they do to grow their vegetables? Do you use organic fertiliser which often consists of seaweed but also blood & bones? How do you make your soil healthy to grow vegetables if you don’t use any animal matter? Do you kill snails that eat your lettuce, and if yes, why is that more justified than killing a chicken for food?

    All Keith might have tried to do is to get some discussion going. So far I’ve not seen much discussion, but a lot of anger and even hatred, even by those who haven’t even read the book.

    David’s comment above is a prime example of that – he ‘only saw the trailor’ and ‘gets the impression’ she doesn’t grow her own food. As a matter of fact, she does, and she explains this in her book. By not reading it and slandering the author in this manner, it makes you a very mean-spirited nasty kind of person.

    Unfortunately a lot of the vegetarian/vegan community engages in this slander as a response to the book (whether they’ve read it or not) and thereby reconfirms preconceptions about the veg*n community already in place – that they are a militant, angry group of people with whom a polite discussion on differing opinions is not possible.

  26. oh boy…. where do we start.
    firstly vegans/vegos get defensive by the title of the book, its quite pinpointed to them….
    its not called the agricultural myth, which would be far less personal. you need to take the title into consideration, it is quite highly charged and directly towards vegetarians, so people who may otherwise be interested in the knowledge will be put off by the finger pointing title……

    secondly let us stop bashing vegans, yes they may not be absolutely perfect and cause so harm what so ever, but really tell me who does? they are trying! I have had so many people attack me when I say I’m vegan therefor expecting me to be some sort of angel of the earth who doesn’t drive a car or anything else, I said I was vegan not a one woman crusader against leaving any kind of mark what so ever. and let us also stop pretending that vegans cannot be sustainable without meat or that they are all ignorant.

    now can we pleas stop ignoring the VERY IMPORTANT fact that most agriculture( grains, soy etc etc etc) is used to feed animals for meat! HELLOOOOO!!!!!

    and now other VERY IMPORTANT POINT…..vegans etc are certainly by no means the ONLY PEOPLE WHO EAT AGRICULTURALLY GROWN VEGETABLES, GRAINS ETC. what does VEGETARIAN even have to do with it? unless your talking about those few very unhealthy people who only eat meat and absolutely nothing else, we all eat grains, veg etc! HELLOOOOO AGAIN!

    let us also stop pretending that meat is not agriculture too! the book is not called how to live sustainably which might have been good…..
    and that killing a snail from your lettuce is the same as slaughtering and butchering a cow to eat, or that in nature where animals live off each other, is the same or an excuse for us being cruel and killing( often very cruelly) tons and tons of animals to eat, we are not part of “that” nature, we mostly shop for food, go on the internet, live in houses , can be racist, sexist, evil, hateful and also resourceful, compassionate, caring and aware.


    1. She fails to recognise that livestock requires more land (for same nutrients) than agriculture and is just as damaging as bad agricultural practice (aren’t we promoting good agricultural practice here?). Land is required to grow food for livestock and for grazing. Livestock can cause erosion and is responsible for the desertification of large parts of China. Something nike 12,000 towns have been swallowed by desert there, which is attributed largely to over grazing. If people want a few animals for meat that’s there business, but I think this woman is perpetuating myths herself. This is a great resource


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