The Vegetarian Myth (191)

pm191_600What we eat is destroying both our bodies and the planet, according to author Lierre Keith, a recovering twenty-year vegan and author of The Vegetarian Myth. While she passionately opposes factory farming of animals, she maintains that humans require nutrient-dense animal foods for good health. A grain-based diet is the basis for degenerative diseases we take for granted (diabetes, cancer, heart disease)—diseases of civilization. Annual grain production is destroying topsoil and creating deserts on a planetary scale. Lierre urges the restoration of perennial polycultures for longterm sustainability. Episode 191. []

Watch video | iTunes | Audio | Transcript | Janaia’s journal: Eating to Save the Earth


  1. Lierre Keith could not be more wrong.

    Obviously she has no scientific background. Mankind has been living in ignorance since the stone-age. Nutritional science has made amazing progress in the last two decades. We now know the optimum diet is a Vegan diet. See Dr. Greger is a world-famous nutritionist and he presents all the scientific data. Vegans live longer and are healthier than meat eaters. I have been a Vegan for 40 years and a vegetarian since the age of 12. According to Ms. Keith I should be dead. But at 80 years I am still going strong with no health problems.

  2. […] Scarfing down my rice and greens, I watched while the host of Peak Moment Television interviews Lierre Keith on her book, The Vegetarian Myth. Then I downloaded the book to my Kindle and have been reading it […]

  3. Jack Handy says:

    I disagree with this non-scientist writer. She is simply making lots of assumptions based on causality. The reality is, to much of anything is not good for the human body. In general, while it’ is true that humans can eat meat….there are misconceptions regarding the necessity. It is not necessary to eat meat. Farming alone does not cause health issues. Eating only wheat may. Food allergies are what cause people to be sick. Genetically, some of us are meant to eat specific kinds of foods. Europeans may do find on red meat once a week. But an Asian may have serious digestion issues and be sick all the time if they eat red meat. Many people have no idea that they should not be drinking milk or eating dairy, yet they do so and continue to have blood pressure issues and sleeping disorders, not having any clue as to connecting it to food allergies. This writer is pure assumption bunk. I don’t know of any vegans who are loosing their teeth and getting cancer….unless they are eating food that they are allergic to. Being allergic to food doesn’t mean you will always know you are…being allergic to food can cause internal systems to work poorly, leading to a long period of time going by before you have symptoms caused by irreversible issues (i.e. cancer). I recommend you go get a food allergy test before you choose a diet. Don’t bother reading this book, it will do nothing but make you scared of things.

  4. I’m afraid that the diet discussion still seems to be off-target for me. Local and organic diets seem to me to be the sanest answer to the wide variety of issues addressed by vegan/vegetarian/omnivorous diets. Eating seasonally dictates a different diet in summer than winter (at least here, north of the 49th parallel), weighted towards more meat in the winter when we need energy to keep warm and more fruit and veg in the summer when they are fresh. Eating locally here means no soy products and a different array of grains (heritage varieties, because modern varieties don’t do well in our bioregion), plus meat (again, our land base produces game and grazing livestock well, not so much on intensive veg), and plenty of beans. Organic food means no factory farmed meats, no low-level antibiotics, no GMOs (again, almost no soy and corn products), no monocropping… In other words, a diet that is not only highly variable but which does not stress the planet. Which really is the point, isn’t it?

  5. As a LGBT person myself, I took part in organizing a large lesbian feminist event myself. At that time, we were fighting against such issues as denying trans people access to the festival and managed to include trans people in the organization committee and have workshops targeted to the issues of trans as well as s/m. We kept some of these workshops with potentially disturbing images seperate in a way that visitors could avoid it. Sadly, a lot of participants have avoided the festival for this reason, but many more did come explicitely because of this openness. I think Lierre could definitely try to be a bit more open minded about this. Especially given her frequent mentioning of indigenous peoples wisdom. After all, many or even most indigenous people do have a concept of queer and trans persons, notably the native americans who had special gender roles for this purpose. So it is not at all anything new to be homosexual or transgendered.
    Also she delieberatly misunderstands the term transphobic. A homophobic person has no panic when seeing a homosexual that drives him to run away. Instead this term refers to a hateful relationship. Maybe she’d like it better if we’d call her trans-hater or misotransist but that sounds even worse, doesn’t it?
    It does not really destroy her analysis in many parts, but this really does not shed a good light on a person that tries with DGR to build a resistance for a future without hatecrimes and abuse.

  6. Leirre Keith must not know the difference between a vegetarian and vegan diet. With a vegetarian diet your body receive all those nutrients you´ll find in meat/fish as well. I´m a vegetarian myself for over 14 years now and each year a do a extend health check and the results are excellent each year. Altough my doctor is now vegetarian he comments me that no much people has such good results as I have. If you drink milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, you receive more then enough of what you might miss of no eating meat or fish. And is there still a lack of something you have good supplements noadays available. I workin a health shop myself and there a re more meat/fish eaters with insuficiency then vegetarians. So please make a clear difference between a vegetarian diet which includes animal proteins as well or a vegan diet wich only includes proteins from plants. The production of meat damages the environment in such a huge way that it isn´t ethical to keep on eating it while it ain´t necesary. If you are not convinced that limit the use of it up to maximum once a week. Same for fish. The overfishing of the oceans is a shame for the greedy human being. Be healthy, be loving for ourself, animals and planet earth.

  7. On a thread here, ( a poster writes:

    “This is a bit off-topic, but I just have to say that I find Lierre Keith’s ties to anti-trans politics troubling in the extreme. Keith is a founding and present member of the Radical-Feminist Lesbian Festival, which is ‘unalterably opposed’ to the existence of trans people. In addition to promoting the anti-trans works of Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, RadLesFes is explicitly opposed to allowing trans people access to trans-related health care.”

    When I told the organizer about this, she reached out to Lierre and they had a discussion via email about this. Here are excerpts from that conversation in Lierre’s own words:

    “Well, I’ve personally been fighting about this since 1982. I think ‘transphobic’ is a ridiculous word. I have no strange fear of people who claim to be ‘trans.’ I deeply disagree with them, as do most radical feminists.

    Try this on. I am a rich person stuck in a poor person’s body. I’ve always enjoyed champagne rather than beer, and always knew I belonged in first class not economy, and it just feels right when people wait on me. My insurance company should give me a million dollars to cure my Economic Dysphoria.

    Or how about this. I am really Native American. How do I know? I’ve always felt a special connection to animals, and started building tee pees in the backyard as soon as I was old enough. I insisted on wearing moccasins to school even though the other kids made fun of me and my parents punished me for it. I read everything I could on native people, started going to pow wows and sweat lodges as soon as I was old enough, and I knew that was the real me. And if you bio-Indians don’t accept us trans-Indians, then you are just as genocidal and oppressive as the Europeans.

    Gender is no different. It is a class condition created by a brutal arrangement of power. I can’t fathom how mutilating people’s bodies to fit an oppressive power arrangement is frankly anything but a human rights violation. And men insisting that they are women is insulting and absurd.

    There is no such thing as ‘woman’ or ‘man’ outside of patriarchal social relations. These are not biological conditions–they are socially created, by violence in the end. If I can’t be a rich person born in a poor person’s body, then I can’t be a woman born in a man’s body. Not unless you are going to argue that man and woman are biological or essential conditions. The whole point of feminism is that they are neither; gender is social to the roots, and those roots are soaked in women’s blood.

    So there it is.

    I would highly recommend reading the work that radical feminists have produced critiquing the entire culture of queer, including s/m and porn, that gave rise to the phenomenon of ‘trans.’ Sheila Jeffreys’s books _Unpacking Queer Politics_ and _The Lesbian Heresy_ would be a great start.

    [The Trans Community is] in fact deeply misogynist and reactionary when it comes to any understanding of male power. Indeed, they often claim it ‘oppresses’ them to even use the words ‘men’ and ‘women.’ Meanwhile, men are raping and brutalizing women on a mass scale. I hate to say this, but it’s porn culture that really created the whole concept of trans. I watched it happen… for your own edification, you might want to read up on Pat Califia, whom I talk about at length, and whose life and writing proves every point radical feminists make about queer politics, pornography, violence against women, sado-masochism, the eroticization of power and breaking boundaries (including the boundaries of children), and trans. All of it is right there” (italics mine).

  8. I agree with the following points: people’s bodies have different needs and responses to different foods. One size does not fit all. Being a vegetarian and a local food eater is nearly impossible in many areas of the world. I live in NH, and we have little tillage but much pasture. We can can more local nutrition from animals than from grains and veggies. People need to learn more about the distinction between CAFO animal production and traditional, pasture/woods based animal production before they start going on about sick animals and environmental impacts.

    For more research on the health implications of what we eat, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taub. It will help you understand what the research over 200 years has shown about carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and why our current food pyramid is so screwed up.

    Personally, I feel wretched eating a vegetarian diet exclusively. I cannot digest many legumes, and too many carbohydrates give me what I call a “carbohydrate hangover”. Let’s get past the “I’m right you’re wrong” dichotomy and support people to be healthy while supporting the health of our ecosystems. Study permaculture!

  9. It is unfortunate that otherwise intelligent people have been drawn in by the weston price foundation and the author of this book. The distortion of fact in pursuit of promoting meat industry propaganda is embarrassing. Your uncritical interview is a disservice to your viewers. I think that you are similar to the global warming deniers when you ignore the ecological and nutritional science that shows that meat consumption is unnecessary nutritionally and highly destructive ecologically. Instead you pretend that eating meat is somehow a blow against agriculture when nothing could be further from the truth…

  10. Thanks so much for doing this interview, I didn’t know Lierre and am delighted to find another Integral Permaculturist! & sane voice in the wilderness …

    I only disagree with her making an ‘either-or’ split between radicals & liberals – from another interview after I looked up her website I think – … because it seems obvious to me that both the inside & outside systems (individual & social) need addressing, & at the same.

    What is stridently evident to me (in terms of the need to address the insides: how we think) is that it’s frantic individualism that is a huge problem here. 95% of the answers above talk only in terms of “what’s best for MY health” … when in fact 95% of Lierre’s point is that it’s actually about the health of the whole system.

    There IS a difference. Quite a big one. It’s the ‘me, me, me’ (+ academic) mentality that got us into this mess, we’ll need to turn that around big time to get out of it. It’s impossible to see the argument Lierre is making from the individualism stance – the blind spots are too big.

    What practically no diet research looks into are precisely the political & oppression issues Lierre weaves so brilliantly into her argument. “the radical feminism was distracting & unnecessary” … please!? It’s the darn essence of the thing!

    And it’s the complex interconnections of lots of factors in the systemic world we live in, much more than the food we eat (or any other isolated item) that ultimately decides our health. & no, I can’t cite any papers on that – because academics don’t generally go for non-linear research, so I’ll have to leave it to your common sense (which is systemic, where it still exists).

    That’s why we can find perfectly healthy & also very sick individuals and groups that eat practically any type of diet, in industrial societies. I even personally know quite healthy people who eat mostly junk food.. & typically they’re completely un-obsessed with what goes into their bodies, I guess because they have very absorbing, interesting lives. Am fairly sure that self-obsession can make you ill, certainly it borders on narcissism which is an emotional sickness. Or obsession with your own health (whilst surrounded by a clearly sick system) is just a common & modern form of hypochondria.

    I went on to listen to vegan gurus on YouTube after listening to Lierre (precisely to get the other point of view), and one of the most stupendous specimens of health I could find is a raw vegan athlete … I even went & watched him explaining how he makes his breakfast, in detail. And he recommends *chewing* at length on your green morning smoothie (which the 3.5 horse-power blender has previously liquified for a very long time), in order to get the optimal nutrition from it. Not to mention the need for some esoteric ingredients in the mix that definitely did not come from his bioregion. I wonder how healthy he’d manage to be without these industrial aids.

    & that’s just the energy accounting side, but it’s all totally connected. That’s the whole point. What is astounding to me in all diets discussions is how all bring a completely exterior quadrants* analysis to diet, even as everyone – & by age 5, surely – will have had several personal experiences of our emotional state affecting how our bodies reacted to food.

    Why it’s also strange that convinced ethical vegetarians consider ‘evidence’ of unhealthy substance that they retch when they eat meat … doh? I retch at the idea of eating insects, but apparently they’re full of amazing nutrients – & have no problem noticing that is all about my cultural conditioning, nor in imagining that it matters very little how many nutrients the insect has, even if I eat it & don’t vomit, I doubt it could supply me with much effective nutrition.

    It is not my experience that my mind, mood or culture can be separated from my food, housing, health – or anything else really. And I bet it’s not the experience of any human, really. (It’s probably only academics who believe that’s true. Because there’s lots of references to prove it.)

    It is amazing to me that we separate food from culture. And Lierre is talking about food and culture (war, oppression, ecology, etc.) as totally inseparable, which is what is new, fresh & utterly important about this work. Anyone who fixes on “so what am I supposed to eat then?” (or what vitamins are in what foods, etc.), has completely missed the point.

    *exterior quadrants in integral theory: materialistic – and also typically academic: split it all into little boxes & then wonder why it takes so many words for it to make any sense…
    So for me it’s definitely a plus that Lierre doesn’t come from the academics fraternity. I doubt she would have managed to think this far out of the box if she had come from that background.

    I very much consider myself a scientist & notice there’s precious little common sense that comes from academics. Starting with the dictum that if it’s not in a paper somewhere it doesn’t exist, & let’s cheerfully ignore what your own personal experience (+ common sense) tells you.

  11. Thanks for all the comments. I read The Vegetarian Myth a couple months ago, on the heels of learning about the China Study. I was trying to keep a critical mind, as it seemed these two books had relatively opposite conclusions on the best course of action for us humans to take to preserve life and the planet. My life partner has now been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. She has been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 10 years and is considering changes in her diet that might promote health. We are both wondering what to eat today, tomorrow, and in the years to come, and wondering what the diets we’ve had contributed to our current states of health. I was taken by much of Lierre’s arguments for a sustainable animal/vegetable/fruit diet. I take to heart, however, considerations of poor scientific method and absolutism present in her book. I also don’t want to rearrange the deck chairs while the ship sinks. There are lots of illnesses and forms of suffering today that I would like to see turned to cure. I am looking ahead. Our lives are short at 120 years, much less at 88, 66, 44, so I am enjoying the consideration of health on a planetary scale that seems to be part of the dialogue here. It seems that so many things about our health are out of our control, there is this sense of urgency to assert some mastery of ourselves, see where we have come from, where we’ve been, where we are and are going. For me, sometimes it makes sense to eat meat, other times only vegetables, and sometimes to eat in a hurry, other times to breath love into every bite.

  12. Same song, different dance. Her research is incomplete. A little truth sprinkled with a little bit of supposition, conjecture, and dot-connecting over way to long a distance.

  13. Iselin Celestine says:

    An almost overwhelming amount of information and perspectives offered via the responses to this show. I appreciate many of the points made by community here. My own thoughts – I have been a vegetarian/at times vegan for most of the last several decades. It is nearly incomprehensible for me to consider eating animal flesh. What began as a personal dietary/health concern evolved into a concern for other beings as well – the latter even becoming predominant. Yet, I think that Lierre’s perspective about food choices is substantive and I already had a ‘sense’ of this per the writings of others. I do not discount the aspect of our constitutions/bodies being different from one another. As a person with pronounced chemical sensitivities, I (certainly) acknowledge the harmful effects of synthetic/toxic chemicals to all of life. I have read far too much to perceive that there is much objectivity (if not outright benefit derived from various interests/supporters) amongst the scientific community. I know that Janaia’s mention is not the only conventionally-trained physician who points out that The China Study is actually an observation. I think that Wikipedia is a reasonable resource given how few references were associated with it. Again, if scientific articles and journals are largely connected to industries, organizations, and individuals who benefit in some way (i.e. grants, professional recognition, career positions), can we really regard them as being so legitimate? Unbiased? I acknowledge to myself the distinction between what are now conventionally-produced vegetables, fruit, dairy, and meat in contrast to what we humans and animals found and ate prior to the advent of industrial agriculture. I think that giving young women books would be too simplistic an approach to addressing over-population – many more factors than this in my opinion. I do think that corporate power and greed has become a horrendous societal/social problem – as well as the avarice, disregard, and brutality of many other types of ‘leadership’ worldwide. And, I trust my sense of intuition more than any other aspect of being. Hence, every time I encounter clear and eloquent mention/description of the ‘web-of-life,’ it resonates deeply within me. If I recognize anything to be true (in) life – it would be this.

  14. For a scientific examination of the culprit that is making most eaters of Western diets sick, watch Robert M. Lustig’s very accessible and scientific breakdown here:

    He does address corporatism and its role in this. Moreover, he points to the success of grain-based diets (like the Japanese diet) and to meat-based diets, like Atkins.

    I also concur with the reviewers here that have pointed to body type. This is a given in Chinese medicine and ayurvedic systems: that what works for one person’s type may not work for another.

  15. It’s a free country and you have every right, indeed a duty, to interview Lierre Keith. However, Lierre Keith’s book is really a mess. She’s citing secondary sources, so tracking down particular errors is going to be really tiresome, and probably not worth our while.

    So why don’t you interview some vegans to get the other side?

    Many vegans are really ignorant about peak oil. However, most Transition people are startlingly ignorant about veganism, as the fact that you are doing a piece on Lierre Keith’s book demonstrates. These two communities need to get to know each other a little better. You might want to go to vegans themselves, to start with.

  16. Geoff D says:

    This video is frightfully void of logic and scientific fact and leaves out some very very important information. First of all, there is no ONE DIET for everyone. Some people can benefit greatly from a vegetarian diet, others cannot. Suggesting that vegetarianism is the cause of modern diseases dismisses environmental causes for cancers such as air pollution, smoking, nuclear waste disposal, etc., etc.. She’s the type of “researcher”, and I lose that term loosely, who will look at something like pesticide caused diseases and ignore that the pesticides were used on crops largely intended for animal consumption. In fact 95% of the world’s grain production – which this author’s suggests is destroying our topsoil, our environment, etc., etc.. – is used in live-stock production. When you look at other modern diseases, such as osteoporosis, you will find it is found in the largest dairy/meat producing regions. Ignoring some of the most important facts surrounding diet and meat production, the author has twisted these facts around, even citing references to archaeology and anthropological studies – fields in which she has limited to no experience or expertise – and uses them to support her own baseless argument. I don’t support any particular diet, in fact I think you should eat what you need to in order for YOU to be healthy. Most unhealthy vegetarians are unhealthy because they think they can eat iceberg lettuce alone, or other low-nutrient vegetables. Your body does need the right amount of nutrient, which can be had through a vegetarian or vegan diet, but this diet is not for everyone. We do need to scale back our meat-production, but because it’s so dirty and unnatural, full of hormones, and hey, mad-cow disease didn’t come into existence because of vegetarianism.

  17. A YouTube viewer wrote, “I’m aghast to put it mildly at your naivete at promoting this woman’s distortions. The countless people and cures for cancer are from people who have given up meat eating… Sorry but this woman is beyond a fanatical lunatic, she is greatly disturbed and has infiltrated an otherwise helpful movement. Do you not see this? Please do not pollute your channel and this cause by what is utterly unacceptable.”

    My reply: Given the tremendous amount of toxicity surrounding agri-business meat production (steroids, medicines, growth hormones, feed that cattle aren’t suited for), how could there be anything but high cancer rates for meat eaters?

    But for 99% of human’s time on this planet, including your ancestors and mine, humans have been omnivores, eating meat and animal products along with plants. Weston Price’s extensive worldwide search for healthy traditional communities in the 1920s-1930s found that the healthiest cultures ate land and/or marine animals. In those cultures, chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease were virtually unknown. We have strayed a long ways from that quality of food (and quality of life).

    Lierre is not the only vegan for whom quality fats from pasture-fed animals has brought recovery.

  18. Mark Pearce says:

    Lierre Keith provides a very healthy contribution to the discussion of how we should choose to live on this Earth.

    I’m no scientist and don’t choose to spend the time necessary to refute each multilayered argument in this debate , but the book, the interview and this discussion leads me to the conclusion that – as in politics – the absolutes are wrong.

    Never going to eat another drum stick? Ain’t gonna happen.

    Never gonna down a Danish pastry? Same answer.

    BUT – and this is a biggie – I now think twice about these choices. And that’s a very big first step.

    Thank you Lierre and thank you Janaia and thank you Robin.

    I’m dealing with life from a smarter place now.

  19. Janaia,

    Thank you for your attempt to clarify the vitamin issue. I will reiterate, however, that it is just one example where Lierre states something as fact that is completely wrong. That being said, what you have written above still does not support the argument that humans cannot get adequate levels of Vitamin A without consuming animal products.
    In the sections of her book that you quote, Lierre states only her opinion and hearsay, without any credible degree to back up those statements. Her claim that healthy adults cannot convert proto-vitamin A to vitamin A efficiently is a complete fallacy. And while I agree that fat soluble vitamins are only efficiently absorbed if consumed in the presence of fats, let’s not forget that plant based foods contain plenty of fat! Lipids are the primary component of cellular membranes, meaning any cell-based food contains some fat. Additionally, whole foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut, and beans all contain high levels of fats.
    Will someone address my question with regards to Kieth’s credentials?

  20. Amanda, and others concerned for Lierre’s “misinformation” about vitamins:

    From The Vegetarian Myth page 180: “Vitamins A,D,E and K are called fat-soluble. They can only be transported by fat, and…are only available in dietary fat.

    ….There are no plant sources of vitamin A. Plants contain proto-vitamin A, which must be converted to vitamin A. Even healthy adults can’t do this efficiently and … cannot do it at all without adequate animal fats.”

    Lipid expert Mary Enig writes that ‘True vitamin A occurs only in foods of animal origin and require fat for absorption.’

    Mary Enig’s 2000 book is “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol.”

  21. Krishna Singh Khalsa says:

    As a lacto-vegetarian kundalini yogi for the past 40 years, from my personal experience the absolutes being promoted in this video are themselves just another mythology without absolute justification.

    The psyche of a meat eater is very different than the psyche of one who is not. If you want that kind of psyche, eat meat. Eating the flesh and blood of another animal psyche will lead to a completely different experiential realm, in contrast to one who lives on a plant based diet, or in the many cultures of India and yoga, where a lacto-vegetarian diet has been practiced as part of Ayurvedic healing. Animal psyche is “egocentric” based on reactivity, fight or flight in the face of obstacles, threats or danger. A plant does not react, like a vine it grows over, around, through or under the “problem.” Having grown up in a farming community and eaten meat for the first 25 years of my life, and having been lacto-vegetarian for the past 43 years, I completely disagree with the overarching, overstated premise being promoted as “The Way” in this video. IF (if) one chooses this “Way” it will have a certain outcome, perhaps even certain relative benefits if one desires those benefits specifically. My choice, one that I will never change in this lifetime, is “The Other Way.” So, as someone once said, “You pays your money and takes your choice.” For my own highest and best interests, and those of many thousands of others I’ve known or know of personally, I would not follow the advice in this video. It’s a false absolute to promote this viewpoint categorically. Personally, I’d say it’s much preferable to choose the alternative, in spite of her reporting a bad experience as a vegan. Perhaps her choices as a vegan weren’t wisely made. That doesn’t disprove the vegan option. AND, when we consider the coming ill effects of eating any foods coming from grass grazing animals (who collect and concentrate radioactivity, iodine, etc grazed over large areas of pasture, into their flesh and or milk), perhaps veganism will be a necessary positive remedy for coming times, at least for the half-life period of the post-Japanese earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor contamination moving our way in the jet streams and gulf streams of the atmosphere and oceans.

    Something more to chew on. Thanks for stirring up the pot, Janaia.

    Krishna Singh Khalsa

  22. MJ, I essentially agree with you that “if one seeks to identify dietary regimens that work for healthy life, the place to start is where people live long vibrant lives.” Lierre’s book turns to the the early twentieth century work of Dr. Weston Price, who studied diet in various cultures all over the world, focusing on those still eating their traditional diets. He found that the healthiest people (best bone structure, teeth without cavities, no degenerative diseases) ate nutrient-dense foods which included animal protein and fats. He did not find such health in cultures eating vegetarian diets.

    I think it is more likely that 100 years ago far more Americans were living on farms and eating dairy and meat from those farms, along with vegetables, fruits and some grains.

  23. Art, I have researched The China Study a bit. It is an observational study, which reveals correlations. But correlations are not causation. The author himself concluded at the end of it that “The China Study was an important milestone in my thinking. Standing alone, it does not prove that diet causes disease.”

    For a critical review by a doctor who has worked a lot with people and their diets (and who caught himself debunking the China study because it was contrary to his beliefs — and so he studied it further), go to

  24. Livestock are a much much greater cause of clear cutting and environmental damage than petroleum. One rain forest tree is a community to 1000 different species. The main cause of their removal is livestock, which out number humans four to one. Also, the amount of water and land required for meat and dairy verses plant based agriculture is more than ten times greater. Keep in mind all the resulting methane gas which is a real problem.

  25. The large and respected data comes from the China Study, as well as other major epidemiological studies such as the Framingham study in Europe . How many people were studied in China for disease? 700 million. It was conducted by three Universities: Oxford, Cornell and U of Beijing. The conclusions are inescapable. Meat and dairy consumption, not grains are the causative factor. Who conducted the Framingham Study? The World Health organization did. Again, because meat and dairy were confiscated by Nazis in Europe atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancers, high blood pressure and other degenerative diseases all dropped so dramatically that doctors went out of business. Heart disease is absent in all countries that haven’t adapted the rich Western diet. Name any. heart disease is non existent, as well as prostate, colon and breast cancers. Under developed countries tend to die from hook worm and parasitic diseases at an early age but the adults in rural China and rural Africa have healthier bones and are active to a ripe old age without degenerative diseases. America did not suffer from heart disease 100 years ago when we ate beans, wheat and rice. Japan has to import arteries of cadavers from the US for student surgeons. The meat and dairy industry has the US so brainwashed. The spend more money on advertising than any other industry. One out every 7 campaign dollars are from them. LOOK AT THE DATA> Look at the large studies not ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE. The meat and dairy industry want to deceive you.

  26. Terri Alice says:

    First I want to state that I agree totally that industrial agriculture is an abomination against nature and as Daniel Quinn has for years written and spoken, begin our disassociation from sustainable living. There is a vast difference between industrial agriculture and the balanced growing garden/horticulture models to be found in indiginous societies which are sustainable and have been for many thousands of years. With very few exceptions (inuit for example) for all of human life pre industrial ag, people were gatherers primarily, with perhaps 15% of there diet coming from hunting. Meat was not the staple of their diets by any means.
    That said, I am vegan and came to this choice for ethical reasons. I cannot have a feminist analysis of domination and subordination and not see how that applies to my relationship with other sentient beings.
    It is not necessary for me to take the life of a sentient creature to maintain mine and I cannot see how I have that right.

  27. This idea that someone incapable of managing her diet should suddenly be able to mangle so many decently sensible diet, development and ethical ideas with some element of reliability is intriguing as a publishing strategy.

    Just for the record, if one seeks to identify dietary regimens that work for healthy life, the place to start is where people live long vibrant lives. Not hiding the book-writer’s personal sins in imaginary archeological visions. Try Ikaria or Sardinia in the west, or Okinawa’s pre-western generation. There you’ll find populations where more than 30% of the people live vibrantly well past 90.

    Secondly, I agree with Don, that the people who seem to be so focused on the disastrous results of our western controlled capitalist economics keep ignoring the corrupt governance in spite of it being so evident that governance is the problem. The idea that it is chosen each interval, is so delusional when it’s clear that the information base and media gamesmanship are well polished and the population is dumbed down by government schooling that constrains our children to factory schooling with programs that restrict learning to parrot-work with no real attempt to develop ability to do creation of knowledge till reaching the end of academia then hypocritically claiming that our people aren’t good enough to learn inventiveness of knowledge any sooner. Where do you suppose this mix will lead. Economic freedom with learning freedom and the internet’s freedom are the way to manage capitalism’s investment in development of our future.

    Thirdly, the idea that agriculture is one entity is playing at scarecrow games so as to enable a small minded book-writer to have another punching target. Factory farms are the appropriate causatives of the destruction that is evident but without that clearly named focus, the villains escape the wrath. Let’s not tar and feather the genuine hand that is trying — and is potent with our collaboration — to feed us with the best inventively decent methodologies, the Salatins on the animal farming side, the organic contingent on the cultivating side and the eco-farming leadership on the forest and wildfood side.

    And fourthly. Feminism betrayed the women’s movement by sweeping every legitimate objection from their own ranks out of focus in favor of only the corporate equity agenda. Witness the daycare propaganda, witness the deadended advanced science female graduates stuck in adjunct land to demonstrate the surplus female talent not being given access to tenure, meanwhile the token women fail to see how easily the glass ceiling is constructed because they are blinded by glamor.

    This episode of Peak Moments surely was an exercise in failures. Hope to find again the successful routes to sustainability emerging that we were pleasurably treated to in the previous episodes..

  28. The title of the book is a complete mis-nomer.

  29. So another half-baked ill informed book that aims to change what we eat. Having been involved with farming for many years I think many people would not eat meat if they saw how it was produced, especially chicken. Yes, factory farming has a lot to answer for and what we get now is our own fault for wanting ever cheaper food. Then there are US cattle feedlots! Most Americans, and citizens of other over developed countries, eat far too much meat and suffer the consequences but does that mean vegetarianism is better? Well yes and no. Being a veggie is much more about not eating meat, it means you need to know something about your diet and be very careful to get it right. All the mistaken stuff about not getting vitamins A and D is just rubbish as another comments have shown. There are a growing number of children in ‘developed’ countries who eat meat with malnutrition and Rickets. Getting a good diet is not easy and eating mass produced GM soya fed meat is not the answer. Also, the over consumption of animal fats is directly linked to increased rates of obesity, cancer and heart disease, all of which are reaching epidemic proportions. So, giving up vegetarianism is not the gold plated solution for good health; moderation and a mix of GOOD QUALITY organic food are the keys to good health and, of course, a decent amount of exercise.

  30. Antonio Campos says:

    Wow. I REALLY enjoyed watching this episode and all that Lierre had to say. I have been an ardent follower of Weston A. Price for the past 2 years once my health journey and awareness began and it was really refreshing to hear Lierre pull all of it together and tie it in with the health of the planet, agriculture, sustainability, carbon sequestration, etc. She’s truly an amazing, intelligent and articulate woman.

    I think it’s obvious that much of the motivation behind the “naysayers” indeed comes from an internal “offense” that they take at having their belief system and life style questioned and put to naught – this is sad and unfortunate but I do understand them (although I do not agree with them of course). In my family’s life and perspective – we really care less about what the truth is and whether or not our belief system matches – we care only that it is the truth (or the most correct) and we will adapt and change as needed to fall in line and adapt to it, as we have done with our health (diet and natural supplements) and now with our awareness of peak oil and sustainability. But I digress.

    GREAT conversation – thank you so much for this! I can’t wait to share this with my family and friends!

  31. Don Duncan says:

    I have not read the book but I listened to the interview. I found the two major conclusions, 1. Modern ag is destructive. 2. Blame Capitalism, to be half correct. I agree with the first conclusion but not the second. For an in depth scientific analysis of ag methods see the works of Masanobu Fukuoka. Simply put: It’s the health of the soil, stupid! If you are not creating healthy topsoil AS YOU FARM, you are destroying the future. No chemicals or plowing is healthy.

    If she defined “Capitalism” I might agree but I doubt it. The problem is worldwide authoritarianism. Nowhere is seen economic freedom (Capitalism). Everywhere a mixed economy exists, i.e., some freedom & centralized control. Failures are blamed on the freedom, never the control. Mistakes are not identified this way. For example, the energy guru Amory Lovins has said the energy crisis would quickly be solved if gov would just stop interfering and leave a level playing field.

  32. Ted Howard says:

    First up, I admit I’m a friend of Lierre’s, and second I’m not a vegetarian.

    There’s a bunch of folks who regardless of what Lierre is pointing at, will not honour her work and journey, because of her lack of a PhD, lack of peer review, etc. Well IMO that’s a sign of “civilised” intelligence, rather than wisdom. If what Lierre says is backed up by our own human animal common sense, and remnant indigenous peoples (who knew how to live sustainably on the land for many thousands of years before so-called “civilised” humans), that’s good enough for me.

  33. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Wow! I bought the book on a whim while browsing through Amazon, then I discovered that Janaia had interviewed Lierre on Peak Moment TV. Iím half way through and quite taken by it. It is beautifully written with significant points made on every page. There is a lyrical style to Lierreís writing that makes it easy to read, reminiscent of the Australian author Tim Winton. The difference of course is that this is not fiction but a sensitively written account in the first person with the occasional humorous comment.

    I wonder if the title may scare off some readers? This book is much more than the title suggests. If Lierre fixed up some of the errors when it comes around to the second edition it could be a seminal work that should be in every library and on the bookshelf of every serious Permaculturalist. It presents things with a different perspective, turning many of our beliefs upside down. It presents the cycle of life in a wholistic way and suggests (my interpretation, and stretching the concept) that humans may be part of the extended phenotype of the plant Phylum (err, genome). It really made me sit up. Considering that plants came first, this is an interesting theory and plausible. There are many ideas presented that give one cause to sit back and think them through.

    Now, regarding Ed Brown’s example of a reviewer’s comments about references. It states:

    “The author cites 207 references in this book.
    62 of those references are websites (~30%)
    18 are newspapers and magazines (~7%)
    32 are journals (~15%)
    95 are other books (~46%)

    First of all, think about that. 30% of the references in this book come from website information. Five of those 62 website references were Wikipedia. Wikipedia! One was Google Answers…..
    …In reality less than 8% of the book is coming from peer-reviewed, fact-checked sources which can provide unbiased, neutral information.”

    It’s actually quite a bit more than 8% if you follow up the web links and look for the references behind them.

    In my copy of the book, of the 603 endnotes, there are only two references to websites, neither refer to Wikipedia.

    In the bibliography, there are references to Wikipedia, however if you follow these and look up the references and people cited in the articles, you find valid references for most.

    As usual, the devil is in the detail. The google answers ( was the least valid, citing only one credible reference, the University of Texas.

    When following the other references to websites I find them to be for a scientist’s personal website, a government website, an educational institution or an organisation. The organisations are the least credible as they usually have some sort of barrow to push. Overall, I found by chasing them up, references on each web page were reasonably good.

    Using other books and journals as a reference is pretty normal as they are traceable. Newspapers may be OK depending on the type of report. Magazines not so much. With that in mind something like 80-90% of the references given are OK. That’s just my subjective opinion, if someone could point me to the rules for references I’d appreciate it.

    Regarding the bacteria in the human stomach mentioned on p142, this may be a typo, or continuing on from the description of the three types of digestive tracts on p96. As the discovery of bacteria in the human gut was so relatively recent and that the Nobel prize winners who discovered this were originally ridiculed by many of their peers regarding the proposition, this makes this criticism a little unfair. Especially if the research for this part of the book was being done prior to that time.

    Yes, there are a few minor errors. On p89 a 43,000 year old holly in Tasmania is mentioned. In fact, it is a huon pine on Mt Reid near Rosebury. I’m pretty sure that there are no native hollys in Australia. As she mentioned this in passing, I don’t think that it is too bad. I’m surprised that she knows of it. I found out about the pine when working on a communications tower on the mountain for the Hobart Electricity Commission. We were all under a severe injunction not to go off the tracks or leave the worksite for fear of introducing something that may be detrimental to it.

    Arguing over references in this case is a bit like quibbling over the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic. It diverts from the main theme of the book and misses the point, being that as we evolved as omnivores we are denying our evolutionary heritage and putting ourselves at risk by being vegan. We have a gut type which is the same as carnivores and use vegetable matter to, among other things, speed up the travel through the large intestine, thereby reducing the chance of cancer and many of the other problems caused by an unbalanced diet.

    With a little bit of attention to detail, a second edition would be worthwhile. Writing a book like this is an enormously difficult thing to do, so I suggest this realising that Lierre might not be too enamoured with the idea.

    I know what I’ll be giving for Christmas and birthday presents.

    Thank you Lierre, I get your drift.

    With kind regards,

  34. 1. She has no credibility, where did she go to school? “none of that is true” just isnt good enough for me.

    2. Humans also have flat teeth for grinding grains and vegetation (with the exception of 2-4 canine teeth. We also have long intestines, hands (not claws) and we sweat to cool our bodies instead of panting. This is universally known that we are different from carnivoires that have a predominantly flesh diet. If we were meant to have meat at every meal our bodies would have had claws, short digestive tracts, sharp teeth for tearing flesh, and a lot more hair. I first noticed these points in Dr. John McDougall’s book, The McDougall Program.

    3. also I have been thinking about this all day… she is advocating a no grain diet, but saying we should eat animals?
    As a permaculture farmer co-operationing my soulmate’s small self sustaining farm, i know that you NEED grain if you want to raise those animals. Pigs, chickens, cows, even goats and sheep need grain- not corn and soybeans (which is what she might have been getting at) but barley, rye, triticale are all great for livestock along with pasture grasses and legumes. Foraging is what they mainly do, but you have to give them something that is palatable and diverse in their diet that will provide a higher quality protein.
    Conventional agriculture has over disked the soil and we have failed to show appreciation for the earth by putting back in what we take out. so I agree on that one, but she killed her own “hypothesis”

    She fails to recognize that everyone is different, we all have unique bodies, different blood types and energy levels,origins, genes,,, etc. Just because she didnt know how to manage a diet with essential fats, good legumes and protein sources, raw fruits and vegetables, all without processed foods and sugar, doesnt mean that my way of life is damaging to my own body. I actually was anemic, overweight, and had chronic migranes, candida, ADHD, and developmental issues as a teen when I ate meat and potatoes and conventional based diet. But since I’ve been predominantly vegetarian, organic, package free, eating a closely native, nutrient dense diet with good fats I have been able to actively give blood, I havent had a cold in years, and I feel great after each meal and I have plenty of energy and I am the most alert student in class. Sometimes if I try to eat meat, I actually get sick- my body gets too overwelmed with the digestion of breaking down complex muscle after all the ease its had!

    Also- the label “organic” didnt exist until the past decade, was she eating tofu made from round-up ready soy in this 20 years of “veganism”? I am already enlightened about soy, I never really liked the taste of its products anyways. Or what about frito lay chips? they’re vegan too, it’s not the fact that it doesnt have animals in it, its also the chemical content, vegetabke oil, and how that food got on your plate! I dont see the point in being vegetarian if you’re going to eat a vegan philly cheese steak or “tofu dog” or whatever wannabe veg’s are eating these days. I’m an herbivoire because I love the taste of plants! and I love animals!!!!

    Conventional ag is terrible to be quite honest, theyre destroying the earth and it will destroy us in the end. We have three choices everyday to change our lives and change the earth- breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    Just eat what our great grandparents ate. Pay a little more for your food to get the quality. I cant afford NOT to eat organic. Sally Fallon and Weston Price may be on to something but I get plenty of saturated fat from coconut oil, thankouverymuch.

    now how did this loose cannon get published without doing real research?

    I like the note on her blog too: totally gives her away-
    “If you send me hate mail, I won’t read it and will put you on email block immediately. ”

    sounds like she gets alot of mail about being a phony- i can see why!

  35. I looked into Lierre Keith’s book with an open mind, but I have to say I am significantly disappointed and even appalled. Keith reports “facts” that are complete erroneous, and in doing so continues to muddle issues about health and nutrition, and perpetuate myths about plant food. For example, she makes claims that we cannot get essential vitamins, such as A and D from plant material, but instead should be getting it from organ meats. The human body is able to synthesize vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. Additionally, for those living in less sunny parts of the globe, leafy green vegetables such as kale and collard greens are extremely rich in vitamin D. That is the same way large herbivores get vitamin D. Vitamin A is not found in plants, but cartenoids are and cartenoids are easily converted into vitamin A by the human body. A vegetarian or vegan that consumes appropriate amounts of fruits and vegetables will not be deficient in any nutrient, except B12 which can be easily taken as a supplement.
    Furthermore, as an educated engineer with a strong background in science currently working towards a PhD in the biological sciences, I find it insulting that Keith would write a book touted as factual without either sufficient education or sufficient research to make her credible. I have carefully looked through her website and am unable to find any information regarding her education. What is her educational background?
    Of course Keith (and everyone else) is entitled to a personal opinion, which can also be made into a book. That being said, she should not purport it as scientific without some serious fact checking. I feel that she was going for shock value, and that is what she is getting.

  36. Ed,
    Lierre states about the review that you copied: “she [the reviewer] states that I got the facts wrong on isotopes. And there is no way that I got that wrong because that paragraph was written for me by an isotope scientist who runs an isotope lab at UC Riverside, Dr. Louis Santiago . He’s literally at the top of his profession.”

    It should be noted that the reviewer is a strongly self-identified vegetarian. It seems hard for any of us to be open to new information that counters our identity. Lierre says that about herself early in the conversation – how she dismissed information that countered her vegan choice for many, many years. Only ill health kept forcing her to revisit it.

  37. Kate O'Neal says:

    While it’s demoralizing to see how easily one (that is, Ed Brown) can poke holes in this author’s work, her basic premises still stand: properly produced meat and dairy products are necessary for vibrant human health and the manure byproduct of this farming practice closes the essential soil nutrient loop. Basicly this is all she’s saying.

    The main body of evidence is presented in Dr. Weston Price’s book Nourishing Traditions. It is extremely compelling.

    And I think Ms. Keith’s points about patriarchy and capitalism are well stated, valid and absolutely necessary inclusions in the discussion– if a broad understanding of our various maladies is to be achieved so we can evolve beyond our current– horrific– stage of developement. In fact, I see that deeper discussion as Keith’s primary contribution.

  38. Ed Brown says:


    I’ve watched many of the Peak Moment TV Conversations and I find them very helpful and educational. Janaia and Robin – you do a great job bringing us critical information for our changing times. Thank you!

    That said i must say I found this conversation on vegetarianism difficult to listen to because of all the bad information in the conversation. I’m a vegetarian and think of myself as pretty well educated on the topic of vegetarianism. A friend sent me a review of this book from an Amazon reader that was not very supportive of the book. I share this review as one more piece of information for the debate.


    The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
    by Lierre Keith

    920 of 971 people found the following review helpful:
    Disappointing, May 30, 2010
    This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)
    I want to be clear about a few things:

    1) I am a female.
    2) I give the idea of this book 5 stars, but its execution 1.
    3) I have been a radical vegan, a rabid meat-eater and everything in between (currently in the in-between)
    4) I am working on an archaeological PhD on hunter-gatherer diets, subsistence, hunting and transition to agriculture.

    I picked this book up after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals”. I thought it would be interesting to read a different perspective on the vegetarian debate. I found Safran Foer’s book to be much more geared towards the inhumane practices of meat while Keith’s book is geared more towards diet/health.

    I admit that it took a very long time for me to get through this book, for several reasons. I purchased this book hoping to get something out of it. I am not an upset vegan who wants to hate it and I am not someone who bought it knowing Id love it. I was just neutral. There were two main reasons for my disappointment with the book. One minor, one major. First, I found the second agendas (specifically the radical feminism) distracting and unnecessary. I have nothing against the feminist agenda, but this wasnt the place to put it. Second, I found the book absolutely riddled with bad information, faulty facts and just plain lazy research (if you can call it ‘research’). As someone who intensively researches these issues on a daily basis, I found myself underlining items on nearly every page that I knew were just plain untrue or were ‘cherry-picked’ facts slanted to give a certain perception. This is such a disappointment as a really great case could be made for the author’s view if she had only put the real work into researching the book properly. Once you lose the reader’s trust that you are providing factual information what do you have? Ill provide examples:

    1) pg. 140: The author states that “Carbon-13 is a stable isotope present in two places: grasses and the bodies of animals that eat grasses”. She goes on to suggest that since there is no evidence of grass “scratch marks” on the human teeth found, that they must have been eating animals. There are many flaws in this thought process. First, I cant even begin to explain the preservation and degradation issues present in examining three million year old teeth for ‘scratch marks’. Second, carbon-13 is an isotope found in ALL terrestrial and marine plants, not just grass. Finding high levels of C3 or C4 (which are what carbon-13 breaks down into) in human teeth only means that that human was eating large amounts of SOME plant, seed, nut, etc. (not JUST grass) or the animal that ate those. It is not as simple as GRASS OR COW.

    2) pg. 142: The author states that there are no bacteria in the human stomach. This is simply untrue. In 2005 Barry Marshall and Robin Warren won a Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering a stomach bacteria that causes gastritis and ulcer disease. There are currently over 130 known stomach bacteria.

    3) pg. 146: The author states a “rumor” authored by RB Lee about hunter-gatherers getting 65% of their calories from plants and 35% from meat. She states that this “simply isnt true”. First, this rumor-spreader is one of the most well-respected anthropological/archaeological researchers in hunter-gatherer studies who edited what is considered THE tome on hunter-gatherer theory, ‘Man the Hunter’. He isnt some random hack. Second, saying those numbers ‘simply arent true’ is simply not true. Hunter-gatherers did and do inhabit a huge range of environments and likewise their diets cover a wide range. Some do follow the 65/35% number. Some eat much more meat. Some eat much less.

    These are only three examples from a span of six pages. This pattern continues throughout the entire book. Fact is the authors ‘facts’ just arent believable (which, again, is a shame because a factual book on this topic could be powerful). She writes as if the anthropological and archaeological evidence she quotes is written in stone, when in fact many of these topics are constantly under revision or not well understood yet. Most importantly, I just believe that writing a book and promoting it as a factual, scientific account of a subject when it is not is doing a great disservice to your (mostly) unknowing readers. If you are not willing to put in the real research effort, write a book that is touted as a personal account and nothing more. Selling flubbed facts to people who are truly searching for answers, inspiration or (insert what you are looking for here) is just bad journalism.

    Ill end this review with some facts and encourage any readers (whether you liked the book, hated the book or havent read the book) to always question whether what you are reading is true and to do some research of your own.

    The author cites 207 references in this book.
    62 of those references are websites (~30%)
    18 are newspapers and magazines (~7%)
    32 are journals (~15%)
    95 are other books (~46%)

    First of all, think about that. 30% of the references in this book come from website information. Five of those 62 website references were Wikipedia. Wikipedia! One was Google Answers. I wont let my freshmen students use Wikipedia as a reference in their papers, why would it be acceptable for a book? Like websites, newspaper and magazine information needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Of the 32 journals less than half come from well known, peer-reviewed sources. The remaining 46% are books, which can truly say anything the author cares to print (as this one does) and only show that the author is getting her information from another source (and another opinion) aside from the primary one. The point of this is to make clear that this is a book that is sold as (and which many positive reviews hype as) providing scientific, factual, intellectual knowledge on the vegetarian/diet/health debate. In reality less than 8% of the book is coming from peer-reviewed, fact-checked sources which can provide unbiased, neutral information.

    If anything I hope this review encourages people to get away from the bias on either side, find factual scientific sources instead of second-third-fourth hand knowledge, check information for yourself instead of blindly believing an author, and to question published material and push for it to actually be factual if it presented as such.

  39. Excellent, sobering show. I have always had excellent health, and have always eaten animal fats, mainly because I feel too weak and hungry otherwise. People chide me for this–not heart healthy they say. But so far so good into my 50s. Love what you had to say about this—especially the reminders about avoiding factory farmed products. I see more people turning to locally farmed meat and real colorful veggies you can grow at home, but it’s a slow process. We will all need lots of compassion as we go forward and the population just can’t be sustained.

  40. Asia Mahon says:

    So happy to see more information and truths about agriculture, monoculture AND VEGETARIANISM. I was a vegetarian from birth to 20 yrs old and suffered many health problems some still to this day and I am 40 now. I know how when you try to educate about the dangers of being vegetarian/vegan people put up a wall, they are better than meat eaters they are morally just. You cannot tell them that they are dying a very slow death inside from malnutrition and you want save them and most will not listen.


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

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