Has anyone read Lierre Keith's "the vegetarian myth"?

(78 Posts)
youretoastmildred Fri 04-Oct-13 13:44:46

And does anyone want to talk about feminism and vegetarianism?

I came across a line in a novel several years ago (as a post-vegetarian omnivore in a relationship with a vegetarian man - they always bring the steak to him) and the female 1st person protagonist (the author is male - another layer of confusion) expresses a political and ethical sympathy with vegetarianism, but is concerned that it is usually women who take it up, and says something about being unhappy about giving up high quality protein to the dominant, striding around gender (I paraphrase from memory)

Anyway I have thought a lot about food ethics and female hunger

I have never materially wanted for food but I have damaged myself and caused long crushing depression by being permanently hungry. How trivial, or frivolous, or vain, is real hunger, even in the rich western world, when it is insisted upon with real material and social sanctions, by a ruling class? And how self-indulgent am I being right now?

Let's talk about how we feel about ladies eating animals.

mistlethrush Mon 07-Oct-13 16:17:20

I think its a good thing that they all contributed - but the amount of meat that each family got was very small. Probably going back to the sort of proportions of meat availability there was in the war would be a better diet for a large proportion of the population, and also a more sustainable way of producing food.

JuliaScurr Mon 07-Oct-13 16:16:11

evolution & cooking - sexual division of labour - sharing of cooked food
more nutrition extracted from cooked food
growth of big brains
agriculture - women owned by men
Engels etc
that kind of thing

unfortunatedischarge Mon 07-Oct-13 15:57:47

I'm a vegetarian because I don't think that a human's ability to dominate and abuse animals because they are weaker, smaller or "less intelligent" for completely unnecessary meat based protein means that they have a right to dominate them.

I am a feminist because I don't believe a woman who may be (in some cases) physically smaller, weaker or "less intelligent"* should be dominated by men .

-women are obviously not less intelligent but have been told their intelligence is inferior even though they have traditionally lacked educational resources. Animals have also been called less intelligent because their brains and intelligence is different to ours. Both reasons are bull shit.

freyasnow Mon 07-Oct-13 15:45:23

Odd thread. I've been a vegetarian for 26 years, and used to be a vegan. I've never been particularly concerned about my weight or been under or overweight. Generally, vegetarians are concerned about various social issues which is presumably why they become vegetarians.

Collectively we need to eat less meat if we want to reduce environmental problems and world hunger. But some land is better managed through pastoral than arable agriculture, so some meat should still be produced. Who should be eating that meat I'm not sure. In some cases it should go to local populations, as should some grains which are not widespread and local populations depend on.

I don't think vegetarians in general are concerned about judging meat eaters. It's not like there aren't a million and one other ways people engage with environmental and social issues. I wouldn't want to be judged for using more hot water or whatever than somebody else, but I'm sure people are more energy efficient than me. Being vegetarian is just one option. It isn't an option that every single person needs to take to resolve the problem.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

exexpat Mon 07-Oct-13 14:10:13

Not a bad thing, but it would mean that each household would get a very, very small portion of pig in return - nothing like the amount of meat people have come to expect with industrialised agriculture.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 14:06:45

"effort that many households contributed towards - and shared in the benefit."

you say that like it's a bad thing!

mistlethrush Mon 07-Oct-13 13:59:18

Did you miss this bit of the article OP?:

Few homesteads can produce an edible waste stream sufficient to feed a pig to market weight, and if you can’t use a pig for food recycling there are much more efficient livestock you could consider.

On a 'homestead' they just did not have sufficient 'waste' for the pig. I very much doubt, therefore, that a 'standard' household would have sufficient waste that normally goes in a compost bin - and that would give you just one pig that would last a few months if you were very sparing in your use of pork and pork-by products. From what I read of the pig rearing schemes during the war-time, getting enough scraps was a huge effort that many households contributed towards - and shared in the benefit.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:47:21

youretoast: are you arguing for how people should eat in an ideal world, or for the choices we can make now?

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 13:41:03

mistlethrush, the traditional way of keeping a pig is to feed it calories you wouldn't have eaten - the contents of your compost bin.
You might say "but the contents of your compost bin can make plant food too" - yes - but it's miserable in winter, as someone else said, "more swede dear?" plus it is hard to enrich the soil sufficiently without either animals products or artificial nitrates based on fossil fuel to create and transport them

Feeding human food (eg grain) to factory farmed animals is a nonsense - but argubably growing as much grain as we are is a nonsense in itself

humans can't digest cellulose. eating animals who can and do eat cellulose is an efficient way of eating locally

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:32:57

I find it easier to be vegan in order to avoid contributing to the way animals are bred and used and killed, than to go hunting. Besides, I live in London and I haven't got a rifle.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:25:13

When I was a meat eater I advocated eating all animals (and tried quite a few 'strange' ones). Then I decided I wouldn't eat my cat and went vegan. grin

I might hunt deer and rabbits if I get very hungry.

mistlethrush Mon 07-Oct-13 13:23:19

Here is an interesting addition to the discussion. If you scroll down you get to a bit that talks of 'feed conversion'. It shows that you have to feed your pig 2,460,000 kcals of food to get 410,000 kcals of meat out at the end. This is why it is so inefficient of resources to eat lots of meat.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 13:19:38

Ok that is a coherent position, but I think you can use an animal without asserting that it exists solely for your use (eg you can hunt deer and rabbits while believing that they exist as part of an eco system which would become unbalanced in uncountable ways without them; in as much as anything has a "use", the rabbit's use is as much to feed other carnivores and to eat vegetation that, gives other vegetation opportunities)

Obviously you can only hold this position if you don't eat them all, or keep them in death camps.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:14:46

I think it's speciesist to believe that certain animals should exist solely for our use.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:08:33

Of course we're different, we have more power. I don't think we should take advantage.

If I lived in a situation where I was required to eat meat or fish - suddenly abandoned on a desert island for instance - then yes I would. The circumstances I presently live in allow me to make the choice to be vegetarian.

The book you refer to op (I have now read sections of it), describes a situation I am not familiar with I cannot engage with Keith's view or the evidence offered up. The book should be called 'How I stoped being a Vegan and started eating meat again - a polemic - The Californian way' I don't mind if she is happier eating meat and I am happy for her but everything else is her anger and supplanting one agenda and world view for another - I don't accept her arguements at face value. The fact there are vegan nutters posting mental ideas on the internet does not mean vegetarianism or veganism is invalidated. Nor is it an amazing revelation that nature is 'red in tooth and claw' - not an especially squemish or sensitive child I used to watch with fascination as my neighbour skinned rabbits and ran after sheep on the yorkshire moors yelling 'mint sauce' - I still prefer being veggie now and am comfortable in my adult knowledge that as an omnivore I am not required to eat meat to be healthy. I have a choice that stone age folks did not have, eating more sustainably and taking account of seasons can be a bit boring in winter (more swede dear?) but I try.

It is entirely possible to eat some meat sustainably but a vegetarian diet is sustainable and healthy too. They are not incompatible ideas and I am confused by the purpose of 'The Vegetarian Myth'.

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:06:10

Sorry, that sounded a bit pompous. smile I just meant to illustrate that my philosophy is fairly straightforward even if impossible to implement 100%.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 13:04:18

"in which case you could just tell them to piss off, if you wanted to."

ha ha that helps, thanks!

I know, arguing from dentition is silly - I wasn't arguing that, I was arguing the opposite, that we have a unique position in the world from which to choose to eat on grounds other than "because it's there", and therefore there must be an ethical component to our food choices, and this goes against a notion that we rejects "speciesism" - we are diffferent

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 13:00:11

I am, yes. Whether it 'helps' or not I don't know. I don't like to see animals or humans exploited and commodified by humans so I try to avoid contributing to it.

exexpat Mon 07-Oct-13 12:53:10

Arguing from dentition about what we are 'meant' to eat is a bit of a non-starter. Have you ever looked at a gorilla's teeth? Closely related to us, massive canines etc but does not hunt or kill anything, in fact 99% vegetarian (they do apparently eat the occasional insect etc they find while foraging).

One of the strengths of homo sapiens is that we have evolved to be able to thrive on a wide range of foodstuffs, enabling us to survive over a wider area of the earth's surface than any other mammal. Some populations have a diet composed almost entirely of meat, some eat none at all. That doesn't really tell us anything about what we 'should' eat, despite what a lot of diet books try to tell us.

Look, OP, I haven't read the book you mentioned, so don't know what its arguments are, but basically, as an adult, it is entirely up to you what you eat. Every individual's diet must depend on what they feel is healthy for them, what fits with their culture, what they are ethically comfortable with, what is available and basically just what they personally like. No one else has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn't eat. If you don't want to be vegetarian, then don't be.

Yes, there is still a bit of a feeling in this country that real men eat steak and women eat salads, and there are (as far as I know) more female vegetarians (or 'meat-avoiders' if you want to include all varieties of fish/chicken etc eating 'vegetarians') than men, but the fact remains that the majority of women in the UK, and probably the world, do eat meat. You don't need to come up with lots of arguments to justify it, unless someone is attacking you for doing it - in which case you could just tell them to piss off, if you wanted to.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 12:36:16

Are you vegan, ArmyofPenguins? sorry if you have said and I missed it.

I don't think for one miserable guilty second that the way we do farming, in the main, is ok. It is indefensible. However I am not sure that being vegetarian helps that much - either practically (consumer boycotts rarely achieve much) or symbolically (you aren't even holding up a "not in my name" plaquard to dairy farming)

This troubled me when I was veggie and I tried not to use animal products (though never called myself vegan as I was not).

ArmyOfPenguins Mon 07-Oct-13 11:57:59

"All other animals with canines and incisors hunt and kill with gay abandon"

They don't breed other animals just in order to exploit their reproductive organs and kill them though.

youretoastmildred Mon 07-Oct-13 10:09:08

Grennie, what parts have you read / not agree with? You go first, as I have read the whole book so it would take me longer.

"you must have been eating a bad diet"

Well yes that's what I think, now! however it was following the nutritional advice of the time which was heavily based on pulses and varying grains and pulses and eating whole foods and as many whole raw fruits and veg as you like, no such thing as too much fruit for instance. Not that heavy on the dairy (partly because I was told that dairy inhibits iron absorption, partly because I had some issues with the way meat farming and dairy farming seemed to be so inextricably linked). What this amounts to is a pretty low fat, high starch diet which caused me massive problems with blood sugar levels, hugely overstimulating insulin and leading to tiredness and weight gain.

"They argue for speciesm - the idea that it is discriminatory to treat humans as more important than other animals. That a cow for example, has just as much right to care for and feed her calf as a mother, as a human mother has to care and feed for her baby."

this I think is really logically mixed up because only humans consciously give a shit about other species. All other animals with canines and incisors hunt and kill with gay abandon. I think you either accept a special status that comes with being human, a sort of noblesse oblige, and refrain from eating animals as no other species chooses to do; or you think that all species are on a level, and you take your place in the melee. Rejecting speciesism takes you pretty immediately out into the forest with a rifle.

I still feel that the issue of how you keep animals for milk but not meat is not solved and that the issue of how you fertilise growing veg without animals is not solved. I don't really believe vegans eat locally in this country because in winter that's just cabbage and turnips. maybe some do, I believe it is possible, I suppose they can already have dried their beans from the summer, but can anyone in this country grow lentils? peanuts? Are all the nuts and grains available throughout the winter grown locally?

from an environmental perspective - I'd rather throw scraps to a pig and eat it than trash yet more of the planet by scraping off the top soil and covering it with annual plants that require artificial fertiliser and weedkillers to grow - but I admit that a little bit of bacon in your spuds and cabbage in winter feels like it goes a long way in terms of comfort and well being as well

Grennie Sun 06-Oct-13 10:58:01

There are a fair number of vegans who see veganism as an integral part of their feminism. Because they care about all females who are treated badly - including those of other species.

They argue for speciesm - the idea that it is discriminatory to treat humans as more important than other animals. That a cow for example, has just as much right to care for and feed her calf as a mother, as a human mother has to care and feed for her baby.

I am not a vegan, but I actually think the arguments have some validity.

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