Whilst it is a very informative book, it unfortunately suffers from a writing style that was akin to sitting opposite someone and having them thump their fist on the table every few seconds to make sure you’re still listening and really understanding their point. The condescension does her no favors. People respond better to inspiration than they do a talking down to, after all.
This won’t be a full discussion of the book, because it is very rich with information. In summary, the book is roughly divided into three sections, pulling vegetarianism apart morally, politically and nutritionally. The first two sections are fairly sound. She underlines (some fifty times over) that there is no way to consume without causing suffering. She details the death that occurs due to agriculture, including the eradication of environments and whole species. Sustainable farming is discussed, including how essential animals are to the process of maintaining good top soil in which to grow nutritious vegetables. In the political chapter government subsidies are inevitably covered and, more interestingly, she uncovers how predominant pro-vegetarianism authors base their calculations only on the intense and unnatural farming that is practiced in the USA, such as the use of CAFO’s (which are described in detail in Michael Pollan’s informative and enjoyable The Omnivore’s Dilemma). Keith also criticizes them for not taking into account what will happen to agriculture when there’s not enough oil to maintain the systems necessary, particularly given much of the world’s surface is not suitable for growing anything and is more suitable for animal grazing. There’s much to think about in these first few chapters and if you’re a thoughtful vegetarian interested in being truly educated on the topic, it is well worth the read.
Cancer, like insanity, seems to increase with the progress of civilization. - Stanislaus Tanchou
The section on nutritional vegetarianism stopped me abruptly when reading a table detailing human similarity to carnivores versus herbivores. It is true that we have a lot in common with carnivores and the length and functioning of our digestive systems certainly point to an omnivorous history, and it’s also true that we only have one stomach and that we (ideally!) only feed intermittently opposed to continuously. Keith comments that “Gorillas are vegetarians and they have both the smallest brains and the largest digestive tract of any primate. We are the opposite.” If you’re not convinced, she goes on to say that “If we really look at gorillas et al., what we find are animals that contain the fermentative bacteria necessary to digest cellulose. We humans contain no such thing. This [vegan] writes books about diet without knowing a thing about how humans actually digest.” more…