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THANKS FOR VISITING! SO, WHY THIS BLOG, YOU ASK?

In the summer of 2010, we started this blog because we were concerned by what we consider to be an abundance of misinformation, sketchy research, emotional manipulation and bullying, and logical fallacy found in the book The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. The Vegetarian Myth is an anti-vegan polemic aimed at radicals and couched in the language of science, feminism, and radical ecology. In part a regurgitation of her guru Derrick Jensen’s ideas, it was published on Derrick Jensen’s own Flashpoint Press, complete with a front-cover blurb from Jensen himself claiming, “This book saved my life.”

What made Lierre Keith’s book infuriating enough for us to dedicate so many hours of our lives to its deconstruction is that (presumably) she’s not on the take from corporate marketers and capitalists we’re so used to analyzing. Rather, she purports to come from within our own movement: a self-described ecofeminist who nevertheless believes that other creatures actually appreciate her desire to violate their bodies owing to a connection she projects upon them. As frustrating as it has been at times to engage with such willfully obtuse writing, we feel like we’ve done a credible job of deconstructing much of the text. Our past posts will stand as a contribution to a growing knowledge base compiled by those who are skeptical of the ecological sustainability and ethical legitimacy of paleo-diets. Please see this post as a more detailed guide for Lierre Keith-specific critiques.

There comes a point with projects like this at which you either have to change topics or write a book. The Vegetarian Myth does not merit a rejoinder on that level, so we are expanding our scope. While still critiquing the paradigm that Keith is involved in, this blog now moves past her. We’ll expand our exploration of ideas regarding the myth of “humane” and sustainable animal agriculture, ecocide, ex-vegetarians and their discourse, sustainable vegan agriculture, and carnism in general– especially carnism that’s wrapped in radical or psuedo-radical language. Furthermore, we’ll be lending context to the status quo account of current affairs with the hope of enlivening our readers’ understandings of the ongoing relevance of radical veganism. We’ll be making connections between animal liberation, anti-capitalism, human rights, feminism, and other modes. We will also be soliciting essays and articles from outside contributors on their own personal stories of ethical living and ecological wisdom. And if Lierre Keith says anything that’s just too dumb to pass up, we’ll probably comment on it.

Food politics are more of a national conversation than ever now and that is a good thing. Even if they’re not sure what the answer should be, more and more people are trying to shake off the nightmare of agribusiness cartels, monocrops and CAFOs that have typified the last century’s food production systems. As radical vegans, we feel compelled to take part in this conversation on how to transition away from a manifestly unsustainable system. Specifically, we want the world to understand that environmentalism cannot be separated from animal rights, and that there’s no such thing as an “ethical” mode of food production that depends on the systematic murder, reproductive and sexual domination, castration and confinement of nonhuman animals.

SO WHO ARE WE?

My name is Carolyn Zaikowski.  I live in Northampton, Massachusetts. I’ve been involved with human and animal liberation movements and environmental justice for over a decade. I’ve been vegan for fifteen years, a lifestyle that has not only been empowering and healthy, but has been inextricable from my feminist, human rights, and environmentalist paradigm. If you’d like to know more about me, my personal blog, Life Roar, is here.

I am concerned with the interconnected nature of oppressions, from carnism and speciesism, to racism, ecocide, sexism, militarism, capitalist domination, and all other manifestations of violence perpetrated by a dominant (and generally numerical minority) social group onto a subordinated mass. Furthermore, I am concerned with ecological justice and I do not think that the liberation of the earth (so often termed “environmentalism” even if it includes the unnecessary destruction of billions of bodies) and the liberation of its individual creatures (so often relegated to “just” animal rights) can radically succeed as separate movements. Not only is even the most “green” meat extremely destructive to the environment, but both the domination of the earth and the domination of its individual bodies are rooted in an ideology that deems it appropriate for life to be used haphazardly as an instrument, an object, a simple means to a dominator’s end. The majority of such objectification takes place not for survival, but in the face of other, minimally disruptive options. It is this ultimate objectification of bodies that I believe must be resisted–and replaced with creative movements towards simple living and shared power–if any of our individual, social, and ecological bodies are to heal. Since humans have split the atom, created languages, lived in space, mapped the genome, and created civilizations, I remain completely convinced that such a radical change is possible. If we can’t find a way to create a world that minimizes destruction and suffering, we are not trying hard enough.

****************************************************************************

My name is Alex. I am an elementary school teacher living in Southern Indiana. I have a BA in social science from Hampshire College for whatever that’s worth. My grandfather’s generation built the cars that took the United States out of the Great Depression. My father’s generation did its best to land on their feet when the factories shut down. Now my generation is here and we’re trying to find a new way.

I have been vegan for going on a decade. This is inseparable from my being an environmentalist, a feminist, a supporter of GLBTQ rights, a supporter of immigrant rights, a supporter of workers’ rights and unequivocally anti-war. I do not subscribe to the traditional left/right views of politics. I think that, in order for humanity to survive and thrive, we need to make a fundamental shift away from the nation state framework and toward localized communitarianism.

My goal with this blog is to send you love letters from the edge of a decaying society. My city is awash in poverty, violence, pollution and psychic trauma and the circumstance deepens each day. The accumulated effects of industrial and post-industrial capitalism are reshaping ecosystems at a rate that is far outstripping the pace of human adaptation. At the same time, we are living in an age of unprecedented digital reproduction and information sharing. Will we use it to organize ourselves and build a culture based on love, cooperation and mutual understanding? Or will our incessant jabbering eventually taper off into a quiet eulogy for the last human empire? I guess we’ll all find out. In the meantime, we might as well do our best to make things better. After all, what else is there to do?

Peace,
Alex

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14 Responses to About

  1. […] about "The Vegetarian Myth" Skip to content HomeAbout UsBusting myths: Vegan permacultureEating vegan & localLinks/resources ← […]

  2. Brian Ellis says:

    Thanks for starting this website. I had a similar idea but you all did a great job – better than I would have done. Have you considered a facebook page?

  3. Matthew says:

    Great website. I picked up the book at my local library since I believe strongly in reading things that argue against my views. However, I had to put it down after two chapters, not because I can’t handle criticism of my lifestyle as a vegetarian, but because poorly researched claims and shoddily supported hearsay masquerading as incontrovertible proof offend me on an academic level.

    Thanks for being vigilant in the name of scientific accuracy.

  4. I read this book recently, also. I was completely appalled at the condescending way she speaks about how vegans think, as though we all share the same brain! She lost me when she started arguing for plant sentience and talking about how vegans are killing all those grains of rice…

  5. anne says:

    Thank you so much for starting this website. I am totally excited about this project and hope I can help if needed. If you are interested you can read some of my very rough critique of this book. http://www.30bananasaday.com/group/30badinternetoutreachguerrillas/forum/topics/paleoprimal-diets-the-uncanny?commentId=2684079:Comment:435824&groupId=2684079:Group:337785

    I look forward to reading more of your articles!

  6. transmeditations says:

    I truly appreciate your work to expose Lierre’s specious ideology and junk science regarding veganism. You may or may not know that she also hate transgender and transsexual people and like to foment bigotry against us. I found out the hard way when she visited our campus last fall. I wrote a blog about the experience, which was quite awful, here:

    http://transmeditations.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/blog-27-bob-jensen-lierre-keith-et-al-the-rabid-transphobic-hate-mongering-of-the-anti-pornography-movement/

    • I just read your blog post and had a physical reaction in my stomach. Her comparisons to other “isms” is disgusting and not applicable. It shows no understanding of the complexity of gender, sexual preference, and bodies. I’m sorry you had to deal with this. Please know that we, and many many many others, stand in solidarity with you.

  7. Mari-O in Bangkok says:

    If you consider veganism and social justice to be inextricably interwoven then at least concede that your primary goal is not identifying the optimal human diet. No doubt, you have identified plenty of material that supports the supremacy of the Vegan diet. But have you had the opportunity to review the work of former Vegan and research scientist Robb Wolf, for example? I would suggest reducing the investment in deconstructing Lierre Keith’s gender politics and instead diverting those energies to a study of the science underpinning Mr. Wolf’s work. He has saved the lives of countless people previously adhering to exclusively plant-based and raw food diets. If you come away unswayed then the heady peripheral issues around “this violence, this oppression and this exploitation” will be waiting for you when you get back. Unless, again, this is more about exploring the political periphery than discovering the healthiest diet one can reasonably follow. By the way, it would be quite a coincidence if the most politically enlightened diet (in your conception of it) also happened to be the healthiest, would it not? A bit like when a person has the good fortune to be born into a family that just happens to worship the one true God in the precise manner that pleases Him/Her best.

    A propos of nothing, it is curious that you assail Derrick Jensen for his “big-time intellectual dishonesty.” But you encourage theft by permitting the publication of a link that evidently directs one to sites permitting free downloading of The Vegetarian Myth. Didn’t see that coming, I guess, based on your preoccupation with the ethics of others. Unless it’s okay to use such tactics in the defense of “the greater good”… in which I totally understand you folks representing to people that animal-based foods do not promote health despite their fundamental role in human diet and evolution for some two million years.

    Appreciate the opportunity to voice an opinion that appears to be irreconcilable with your own.

    • Alex C. says:

      at least concede that your primary goal is not identifying the optimal human diet

      I’m not going to speak for Carolyn, but I’ll concede that. I don’t care about an “optimal human diet” at all. I don’t care about it because it doesn’t exist. It’s pretty ridiculous to even discuss when a significant portion of the human population barely eats anything, much less some kind of transcendent nutritional formula that unlocks the fountain of youth.

      The research we’ve assembled on this website demonstrates that veganism is a nutritionally adequate diet for humans. It also strongly suggests that this woo-woo, west coast, post-hippie spin on Atkins (may he [cardiac ar]rest in peace) is at best nostalgia for an age that never existed, and at worst just cynical manipulation of the first world tendency toward orthorexic formulas for immortality.

      I’m pretty disinterested in any discussion of nutrition beyond this because, as you say, my concern is for justice. Even if this guy, Wolf, really did figure out something in his staggering five years of experience as a biochemist that flips the medical establishment on its head and it turns out we could get away with drinking bacon smoothies for breakfast, I still wouldn’t do it. Why? Because slicing off the side of a living creature that wants to remain that way IS A SHITTY THING TO DO.

      you encourage theft by permitting the publication of a link that evidently directs one to sites permitting free downloading of The Vegetarian Myth.

      I have no ethical problem with showing people how to get information for free. I would assume that Lierre Keith would rather have her ideas discussed than make a quick buck (unless she’s selling out more than just veganism these days). Sounds like intellectual honesty to me.

  8. annisveggies says:

    I have read some of the information above and a posting or two. I am a bit confused. I am trying to work out in simple terms what the book that started this is about and what this site’s authors think is / or could be fair and ethical food production.

    What food we choose to eat, how we obtain it and from where are, I think, fundamental issues of our time and future times that require sensible debate and sound principles.

    • Alex C. says:

      what the book that started this is about

      If I were being generous, I would say that the thesis of the Vegetarian Myth is that the ontology of human agriculture is something that could be likened to the Biblical Fall. But, having actually read and fact checked the book, I can tell you that it’s not much more than a manifesto for ex-vegans who want to trend-hop onto a rebranded Atkins diet. It’s a 320 page rationalization for why Lierre Keith sold out her principles. The purpose of the blog was to respond to and highlight the many erroneous claims made in TVM; namely that its citations are largely pseudo science, willful distortions and/or from dubious sources (i.e. she actually cites Google answers at one point).

      what this site’s authors think is / or could be fair and ethical food production.

      I recommend a vegan diet with as much locally sourced, organic food as possible. In choosing this, I understand that consumer choices alone are not going to fix the problem of food production. We need strong food justice movements from communities that can step up and take control of their food production and distribution needs. This requires sensible debate, sound principles (to borrow your phrases) and social organization in order to combat the undue political influence of massive agribusiness conglomerates.

  9. “I’m not going to speak for Carolyn, but I’ll concede that. I don’t care about an “optimal human diet” at all. I don’t care about it because it doesn’t exist. It’s pretty ridiculous to even discuss when a significant portion of the human population barely eats anything, much less some kind of transcendent nutritional formula that unlocks the fountain of youth.”

    Wow. I would call this deathless prose, frankly. I am eaten up with envy at how succinctly you’ve expressed something I’ve kind of spluttered to say. On numerous occasions.

    My reaction to Lierre Keith’s book was pretty simple: “She’s f__ing mentally ill.” A total miasma of mental illness pretty much permeates the whole book and it’s on top of a really smug ignorance of all things scientific.

    In addition to Derrick Jensen, whose only redeeming quality is that he’s not John Zerzan, I think a couple of kicks should be aimed at Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma – it’s the kind of Oprah-level intellectual dishonesty that says a beef operation fed by outside agriculture is magically self-sustaining that opens the door to any other nonsense you want to shoehorn into it.

    At least Huffpo and Oprah expose the tabloid-reading crowd to more liberal notions than the Murdoch press or Matt Drudge do, but you can’t really depend on them if you’re a serious person, IMO.

  10. Hi, I was planning on writing a massive critique of this horrid book from the standpoint of an anti-civilization VEGAN, and focus largely on her abysmal research and carte blanche attacks on those who could and should be anti-civ allies; I think the book is harmful not only to animals, but to the anti-civilization movement, and this is why I was going to demolish it.

    Then I got arrested on an illegal traffic stop and illegal search and seizure in Illinois, pled guilty to possession of cannabis with intent to distribute, and served two years. Now I’m back and kickin ass again.

    Recently on the Derrick Jensen forum (I’m a huge fan of his, and consider him a friend and ally–although I don’t think he thinks of me as a friend anymore, as you’ll see), I made an offhand comment in a thread about an anti-Vegetarian Myth website, saying, “There SHOULD be websites like that–the academic and scholarly integrity of the book is abysmal.” I was banned from the forums, all my posts deleted, without even getting a chance to defend myself or my claim (claim=the truth).

    This convinced me that it is worth my time and significant effort to demolish this trash; as a vegan and anti-civilization writer, as well as a University-educated (UC Irvine) English/Creative Writing major and writer of 6 novels and half a dozen published articles, and editorial board member on Anthony Nocella’s Green Theory and Praxis Journal (he was co-editor of Igniting a Revolution, which I reviewed for his Peace Studies Journal and posted on my blog, and Terrorists or Freedom Fighters with Steven Best), I feel like I have a unique perspective to convey, and I have been compelled now to convey said perspective.

    Thank you for this site. I’d love for you to check out my blog, and I’ll keep you abreast of my progress. It’s going to go beyond a simple review–it will also be a demand that Lierre Keith cease the HORIZONTAL HOSTILITY that she so passionately rails against, and yet so fiercely participate in themselves.

    –Love and Liberation–

    Jan @ TheRewildWest

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