Friday, June 12, 2009

The Vegetarian Myth: Food Justice and Sustainability

A review of The Vegetarian Myth: Food Justice and Sustainability over at Reality Sandwich - seems like a necessary antidote to all the extremists on the vegetarian side.

Vegetarian Myth Buster

Jennifer Flynn

As a vegan for 20 years, Lierre Kieth, experienced a wake up call, a call that she refers to as growing up into adulthood while she searched to live in peace with her natural surroundings. Kieth's investigates and challenges her own personal beliefs regarding vegetarians, agricultural practices, and ecological science in her new book, The Vegetarian Myth: Food Justice and Sustainability.

Referencing farmers who have put sustainable and ethical practices in place on their land, Kieth makes us question the accuracy of vegetarians touting the "wise" techniques of current agricultural systems and calls for a return to realism where observation of the natural world leads us to practices that would truly benefit the world and human health. Positing that vegetarianism is not a sustainable response to the food crisis and that current agricultural practices of raising animal based food products is not the answer either, The Vegetarian Myth raises awareness of the integral problem of modern civilization in which the food we eat and the way it is raised is a symptom of our lifestyle of disconnectedness from the natural world. Simply saving the lives of animals by not eating them will not save these species, the human race, or the planet as we know it.

Keith points to the cyclical nature of diet and the elimination of carnivores and herbivores in the natural environment. She uses the Serengeti, where grazing animals digest grasses and give back to the parched soil, as an example. The grazing animals are consumed by carnivores and omnivores, including humans. But with an overpopulation of grazing animals, the ecosystem would become unbalanced with every bit of green eaten. With an overpopulation of predatory animals, grasslands become piled with plant material that is slow to break down in the arid climate. Human intervention into this cycle, particularly vegetarianism, can upset the balance.

To approach sustainability, Keith urges a development in thought surrounding vegetarianism and lifestyle, relying on the wisdom of the Earth.


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