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The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  2,426 ratings  ·  346 reviews
Part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto, this controversial examination exposes the destructive history of agriculture—causing the devastation of prairies and forests, driving countless species extinct, altering the climate, and destroying the topsoil—and asserts that, in order to save the planet, food must come from within living communities. In order for ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Flashpoint
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Keith Akers
Dec 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
This is an anti-vegan book which will be a difficult book for vegans to read. The text resembles more a stream-of-consciousness monologue than an organized discussion. The author is an ex-vegan, after having been a vegan for 20 years, and blames most of her numerous health problems (skeletal problems of some sort, evidently) and mental problems (depression, anger) on her vegan diet.

But this is an indictment not just of veganism, but of agriculture in general, and indeed our entire civilization,
missy jean
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Get ready for my longest review ever. And if you feel like following what I expect will be a lively conversation, I'm also going to post it on

I am giving this book 2 stars although on balance I disliked it. There were pieces and passages that I found lovely and illuminating, and they deserve a star. But on the whole, this book was packed full of false choices.

From the title onward, Keith aims her knife blade in strange directions. The foundational argument of this book is
Jun 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
I'm reading this book because I am a seeker of knowledge and I appreciate Truth, even in painful forms. That having been said, this book was not logical at all, and contained twisted truths at best. The examples given are highly emotional, yet utterly ridiculous anecdotal evidence that the author was a non-educated vegan, and instead of eating healthy, whole foods, she admittedly ate bread for every meal (pg. 69), and had very poor health overall (she mentions alcoholism and mental illness in ad ...more
else fine
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was one of the more controversial books we carried this year. A quick look at the online reviews will tell you the same thing - people are worked up about this thing. Lierre Keith is a brave, brave woman. I wouldn't want to pick a fight with every vegan in the world at the same time.

What I think has been lost in the furor is that her point - the heart of her point, at any rate - is very simple, and very hard to argue with. We take turns eating and being eaten - we consume today, but will b
Ellen Young
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A 20-year vegan who started eating meat out of a desparate attempt to heal her constant and chronic health problems, the author had her eyes opened to both the damaging effects of a grain-based diet and the devastation agriculture has wreaded on the planet. And now she wants to let everyone know how she, and the vegetarians still practicing, got it all wrong. For one thing, she totally skewers the claims that eating a grain-based diet is better for the environment. The destruction of topsoil and ...more
Rebecca McNutt
While I can definitely appreciate the outlook of this book (I think veganism is just a bunch of hype myself and don't understand the appeal), I still don't think it's right for a book to judge people like this for their personal lifestyle choices. If you want to eat meat, go ahead. If you want to be a vegan, go ahead. There's nothing wrong with either. The problem becomes when you stoop to harsh judgement without any mutual respect, hating people and criticizing them simply for a difference of o ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
Lierre Keith is a sick person. She was probably sick before she became a teenage vegan, and probably made herself even sicker by crying over baby ants. For 20 years she (by her own admission) was an ignorant vegan. So ignorant, that if I had met her then I would have laughed her out of my vegan club (if I had one that is). Now she is just an idiot, a very sick idiot who feels better now that she eats nothing but meat. Natural meat according to her, since her body is incapable of digesting plant ...more
Aug 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
Well, that was...interesting...

Lierre Keith is a self-described radical, meaning that she basically wants to remake the world from (literally) the ground up. She lays out her idealized - well, not civilization because that's a bad word - but lifestyle for the world. While there are nuggets of value and interest in this book, they are mostly hidden in piles of sentimental, inflammatory, and repetitive filler.

The over-the-top sentimentality is eye-roll-inducing. Crying over slugs dying instead of
Ginny Messina
Aug 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: food
(I reviewed this book back in the fall on my blog. This is a slightly tweaked version of that post.)

Lierre Keith suffers from numerous chronic health problems. Unable to secure a diagnosis for most of them, she decided that the vegan diet she had followed for twenty years was to blame. But she wasn’t content to add a few animal products back to her diet. Instead, she set out to prove that healthy diets require copious amounts of animal foods and that small-scale animal farming is the answer to
Bryce Lee
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
This is a must read for anyone who considers vegetarian/agricultural eating to be either morally or nutritionally superior or even comparable to a preagricultural/hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Lierre also makes a devastating case for the insustainability of agriculture.

She gets a little off topic at a few points by letting her anti-masculinity and anti-religion views shine through. I don't really mind this, but I think it detracts from, rather than contributes to, the major points in the book.

Leran Minc
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-culture
This is definitely an interesting read, but I found many things about the book itself problematic and generally disagree with her conclusions despite agreeing with some of her arguments. Until I find a superior book (which I hope will be easy to find)I would recommend conscious omnivores and vegetarians alike to read this book.

Let's start with her motivation to write the book. She was vegan for over 20 years and developed physical and mental health issues due to her diet. While it truly is sad
Mar 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: masochists
Oh boy...

To say that I hated this book would be incorrect. It's not that there's much in this book to hate, it's too vacillating, confusing, and utterly contradictory for that. Simply put, this book is under-researched and laden with unsupported statements, speculations and anecdotes. The only thing to hate about this book is that people will read it, trusting Keith to have given them good, true, useful information, and go on to make bad dietary choices.

The first problem with this book is that i
Scott Cameron
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book took me by surprise, to put it mildly. More like it slapped me in the face. After learning that the author is a former vegan and a self-described "radical", my expectations for intellectual rigor and the pursuit of the hard truth were fairly low. But what I got was quite the opposite.

I loved this book. I can't remember the last time I read something so thought provoking and invigorating. Lierre Keith's writing is wonderful and at times borders on poetic. Throughout the book she intersp
Ryan Holiday
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Tim Ferriss (highly) recommended this book to me. I've always felt that there is nothing more impressive than seeing someone turn over a long held belief in light of new evidence. That's essentially the premise of this book-a 20+ year vegan finds it impossible to keep denying that meat is a natural part of the human diet and that it's certainly more "natural" than the heavily processed grains and crops that vegans eat. Her solution is sustainable farming and agriculture, harkening back to the da ...more
Oct 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book would be funny until you realize that people will read this and believe Keith's claptrap. Talking about the unfairness of eating "apple-babies and rice-babies" because it's preventing apples and rice from propagating is laughable.

If that's not bad enough, she cautions people against a vegan diet because two years into hers she developed mysterious health problems. Her conclusion: that vegan and vegetarian diets are dangerous. She evidently knows nothing about the millions of vegetaria
Rogers George
Oct 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Written by a former vegan and addressed to vegetarians from "inside the camp," as it were. Her rather biographical approach is frank and fact-based without being bitter. She is clearly sympathetic to the sensibilities of vegetarians. BTW--I am not a vegetarian, and I still found the book to be thought-provoking and informative.
Lierre (rhymes with Pierre) divides the book into three main sections, covering the nutrition, politics, and ethics of food as it applies to the idea of vegetarianism. In
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, nutrition
a clear, impassioned, and comprehensive argument that there is no sufficient justification--whether moral, political, nutritional, or otherwise--for a diet based on the industrial agriculture of annual monocrops. this, i would emphasize, includes most standard American diets as much as it does veg[etari]an diets, and so i wish everyone i know (but most especially the veg*ns) would read this book.
Every once in a while, I read a book that radically changes the way I look at the world. The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, was one such book.
I've had a compulsion/obsession with health/food/the environment at least since I was a teenager, and now, at nearly 40 years old, I've read about and tried different nutrition trends. I've eaten raw foods, paleo, and vegetarian. My choices have been motivated by both a desire for better health and a desire to do what's best for the pl
Kristen Ridley
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Wish I could rate this a 3.5... there are parts of this book that I absolutely love and parts that are unscientific enough the undermine all the great parts... For reference, I come at this from the perspective of someone who has spent a great deal of time thinking about and, most importantly, researching the facts surrounding the issues that the author presents (and sustainable agriculture in general).

The ecological and environmental information here is all spot on. Her agricultural statistics
Wildrose VuVu Magoo
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An extremely well written, well thought out and depressing book. I'll start with the things I did NOT like about it:

The tendancy of the author to sort of meander, and occassionally slip into feminist rhetoric. While I'm all for feminism in countries that really need it, I find it alienating when people seem to blame it all on men. Who invented agriculture in the first place? The men hunting or the women gathering? What do you bet it was the women, who wanted a steady food supply so they wouldn't
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it
More accurately titled "The Vegan Myth", I think.

Broken up into three sections - Moral, Political, and Nutrition. Moral was a retelling of the Omnivore's Dilemma and punctuated with (unintentionally) amusing anecdotes about attempts at "vegan" gardening (apparently plants are unable to comprehend their own cruelty at demanding animal bits in order to live). I skipped the Political section entirely and quit the Nutrition section (which is an amalgam of Protein Power, GCBC, and Nourishing Traditio
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health-books
This book is as the description says, 'part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto.'

Lots of books talk about the harm eating processed foods and high levels of sugars and grains on our health, but this book is one of the few that combines this with information about the effect all these many grain crops have on our environment and on many different ecosystems.

The author talks about all the hidden death that is involved in the production of foods such as grain crops, and why vegan me
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is both more autobiographical and more beautifully written than I anticipated. It's also deeply flawed in ways I can identify and, I suspect, in ways I cannot. The flaws I have the background to identify primarily fall under the heading of taking the more science-y sounding claims of organic agriculture, resilient agriculture, and permaculture too seriously. What that usually means is a mix of taking devout sides in scientific controversies (often with an apparent unawareness that ther ...more
Daniel Lowen
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
The prose is good; the reasoning less so. She lays out some very important facts, but many of the conclusions she twists out of them don't hold. She accuses pro-vegan medical evidence as confusing correlation with causation, but then she promptly does the same with pro-meat medical evidence. She correctly argues that agriculture, especially since WWII, is destroying the environment, so that when the oil runs out, the whole system collapses. She correctly points out that the carrying capacity of ...more
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
If I had the money I would buy a copy of this for everyone I know. So much important information, all carefully researched with citations. This book will change how you look at food and diets and give you a better understanding of what really dies to feed us. I highly recommend reading this!
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lierre Keith, in Vegetarian Myth, presents her readers with several convictions she has thoroughly researched and argues passionately:

1. Agriculture (& diet) based on annual grains is ecologically devastating, inhumane, and unsustainable.

2. Despite our technological advances, humans are still fundamentally interwoven into Nature's cycle of life & death. In order for our planet to continue to sustain us, we must embrace our part in this cycle, acknowledge that death begets life, and reconnect to
Kathleen Quillian
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Well-researched and well-written, this book makes a good case for why not to be a vegetarian. These reasons include both harm to the self and harm to the planet. Keith writes from the standpoint of a former vegetarian whose body was ravaged by the effects of a 20-year vegetarian diet. This came from neglecting her body of essential nutrients by cutting out protein and fat from her diet. In the meantime, tofu, the ubiquitous protein source vegetarians use to replace the protein that would otherwi ...more
Feb 22, 2012 is currently reading it
Lately I have been interested in books about the ways we obtain, prepare, and eat our food. I picked this book up yesterday and was excited to read about this stance--a once vegetarian (specifically vegan) practice that went back to a meat eating one. It seemed it would be a bit more level-headed and information-based, rather than an extremist point of view that we sometimes see on the vegetarian side AND the carnivorous side (keyword: sometimes. I do see some vegetarian reasonings explained tho ...more
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think this book can help a lot of people. As a vegan for twenty years, Lierre definitely has had first hand experience of what a vegan diet can do to the body. I have been a vegetarian off-and-on in my life and I will never again venture down that road after reading this book. The key point Lierre makes is that we cannot equate the horrors of factory farming with the act of eating meat. Of course, factory farming is brutal but using animal products (including digestion of their flesh) is not t ...more
Richard Reese
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith is an intense discussion about health, food, and ecosystems. She spent 20 years of her life as a vegan. It destroyed her body and damaged her mental health. Her spine has irreparably degenerated, and is a source of chronic pain. She can never have children. Nobody warned her, not even her doctors. Her chronic malnutrition made her incapable of clear thinking.

A primary objective of this book is to issue a loud and clear warning to current vegetarians, so that t
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