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

Flashpoint Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-604-86080-1.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 10/24/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Food/Cooking/Kitchen

When my family took a trip to Seattle in 1990, we encountered vegetarians for the first time in the youth hostels where we stayed. They refused to use pans in which meat had been cooked. While I knew that Jewish households separated their dishes, but we never guessed that vegetarians followed such a rule as well. Almost thirty years later, due to the high cost of food, I find myself also a vegetarian, but not so strict about how my dishes are used. Maybe reading The Vegetarian Myth will change my eating habits once again if my finances allow.

Lierre Keith attacks a ten-thousand year agricultural practice as if it is causing the end of life as we know it. Her strident and convincing voice dispels the myth that eating plants prevents killing. Through well-researched reporting, she demonstrates that growing plants destroys wetlands, animal habitats, rivers, and topsoil until eventually there will be none left and human life will become extinct.

Combining her life story as a vegetarian with documented sources of the damage to the environment caused by mono-agriculture (growing only one crop on a large scale), Keith refuses to back down on her belief in the damage vegetarianism is causing the world. Her solutions are for us to return to our hunter/gatherer roots and produce our own food, refrain from having children, and stop driving cars.

Although extreme, Keith's form of radicalism makes sense. Even though her male bashing, expletives, and extreme pronouncements ("We're out of topsoil, out of water, out of species, and out of space in the atmosphere for the carbon we can't seem to stop burning.") can get tiresome at times, the premise of her book, that we must wake up and change our lifestyles, makes sense and we may even need her loud voice to move us to take action.

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 of the environmental movement. She lives in both western Massachusetts and northern California. Visit her website.

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