Philosophical Overview: Lierre Keith’s Vegetarian Myth: Nostalgie de la Boue by Stuart Hindmarsh

Here’s a very thoughtful analysis that discusses Keith’s research and fallacies: Philosophical Overview: Lierre Keith’s Vegetarian Myth: Nostalgie de la Boue by Stuart Hindmarsh

Here are two very astute passages from him, but you should read the whole thing too:

“[Lierre Keith] presents her current view as an ‘adult’ one that comes to accept the necessity of death, but my impression is that she still hasn’t come to terms with death. I am not opposed to the killing of animals for food in every circumstance, but I would say that in the cases in which it is acceptable, killing an animal is an unfortunate but understandable necessity—the animal doesn’t offer itself to be killed. Keith, it seems to me, couldn’t bear to accept this view of the world as a place in which survival may depend on ‘domination’ and ‘exploitation’. She needed to view the killing of an animal as part of a beautiful compact that the animal had entered into, one in which the animal allows us to kill it if we agree to become prey ourselves at some point (e.g. p. 23-24, 271).”

“It is an extremely time-consuming process to check citations and to hunt down and read the original research they are based on. This is especially the case when dealing with the style of writing employed by Keith and favoured by polemicists of all persuasions. She offers waves of statistics without providing an adequate account of their context, failing to describe the nature of the original research and the nature of the debates in the relevant literature. I don’t believe that Keith’s supporters have checked all of her citations either, though. They like her conclusion, and so they will assume that her arguments are sound and her research strong. I suspect that we will find her sympathizers repeating her claims about Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons, citing her book for support and consequently appealing to a source even further removed from the original research papers. I have concluded that it isn’t worth my time checking all her citations, for her thesis is utopian, her arguments are generally unsound, and the citations that I did take the time to check revealed sloppy research.”

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5 Responses to Philosophical Overview: Lierre Keith’s Vegetarian Myth: Nostalgie de la Boue by Stuart Hindmarsh

  1. durianrider says:

    youtube “vegetarian myth debunked”

  2. Veganboy says:

    So you’re saying that her data is flawed, but that you couldn’t be bothered to look it up before you made that claim? I think this put me over the top; I’m going to read her book, even though I know it will anger me.

    • Stuart Hindmarsh says:

      The second excerpt here is taken from the end of my review, and it admittedly may give the wrong impression when taken out of context. As I mention in my review, Keith has based some of her claims on statistics offered in popular publications without looking at the research published in peer reviewed journals that are the original sources of the statistics. I spent a good deal of time hunting down and reading the original research on which some of her claims were indirectly based, which is mostly not online or in public libraries but only available through sources such as university libraries. As the comment by vegetarianmythmyth states, there are hundreds of references in the book, and in the excerpt above I was stating that after I had examined several of her citations, read the original research that Keith herself evidently had not read, and found that her claims were spurious, I did not consider it worthwhile to examine in the same way every other citation she gives. However, I would like to add here that I think this website is providing a valuable service, because the task of examining and refuting the many claims made in Keith’s book is really not one that a single person can accomplish easily. Like many polemicists, Keith casually throws out statistics, trying to give the impression that she “has the facts”. Yet it is necessary not only to check the accuracy of these figures but also to understand the context of the original research from which they are taken. Scientists are often frustrated by popular publications such as newspapers that make inaccurate and extravagant claims about what their research has “shown”. Yet it is popular publications that Keith tends to cite to “back up” her claims. So I think it will be a great help to people curious about Keith’s claims if people on this site can each contribute their time and expertise to investigate some of Keith’s questionable assertions.

  3. I’m not sure I understand your comment; is that addressed to this blog (because here we are actually working on an analysis of her citations and other data), or are you addressing the article we’ve re-posted here? If so, have you read the whole article and not just the excerpts here? He does quite a long, specific analysis of many of Keith’s points, concluding at the very end that he stopped analyzing all of her citations– of which there are a few hundred. He still does a pretty substantial critique of her main data and it’s worth reading; just because someone cannot do an analysis of hundreds of citations does not mean their critique is invalid or poorly researched.

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