Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating

Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating
by Erik Marcus

Forward by Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy, former dairy farmer and cattle rancher

There are three main reasons that most people adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle: Health, Ethics, Environment. It may be predominantly one reason or a combination of two or even all three. I didn't know it when I first picked up Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating at Barnes and Noble and decided to buy it, but this book addresses those three reasons in that order. The book is actually divided into three sections: 1) To Your Health, 2) The Truth About Food Animals, and 3) Beyond the Dinner Table.

Each of the five chapters in the first section, "To Your Health," starts with a real-life anecdote of a person struggling with extreme health, nutrition and/or weight issues including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and even mad cow disease. These anecdotes are followed up by ground-breaking information by internationally respected experts, namely heart specialist Dean Ornish, MD, nutrition scientist and author of The China Study, T. Colin Campbell, weight loss expert Terry Shintani, MD, registered dietician Suzanne Havala, and fourth generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher, Howard Lyman. These are truly the heavyweights in the vegetarian movement, and it is note-worthy that they all come from a dietary background heavy in animal products.

In the second section, "The Truth About Food Animals," Marcus takes you into the modern factory farming world and exposes the hellish plight of hundreds of millions of food animals. Most of us have heard stories of the treatment of these animals, but few of us know what is truly going on. Do you know what becomes of the 200 million newly-hatched male chicks each year? They are either thrown away, left to suffocate under the weight of the other chicks, or they are thrown alive into grinders to be turned into fertilizer. The females have their beaks seared off and are started on their diets of antibiotics and hormones. Five layer hens share each cage with a floor space the size of two sheets of typing paper. They live their entire lives like this and when they are no longer profitable they become part of the lowest quality processed foods such as 39-cent pot pies. The broilers, bred for meat, are behemoths. They grow twice as fast and twice as large as traditional birds. Today's eight-week old chickens carry seven times more breast muscle than nine-week old birds of twenty-five years ago. The growth is literally crippling these chickens. They are slaughtered at six or seven weeks because after that, mortality surges. And this is just the chickens. There are similar stories for pigs and for dairy and beef cattle. This section ends with the risks to the humans who work in this industry and their growing numbers of injuries and disease.

In the final third of the book, "Beyond the Dinner Table," the truth about world hunger and the American rangeland are exposed. From chapter 11: "Animal products use staggering amounts of resources - resources that could easily be used to feed people. . . . vegans consume around 2500 calories of crop production each day, whereas people who eat 30 percent of their food as animal products require crop production of over 9,000 calories. . . . the world's poor cannot compete with the cattle and chickens of the world's wealthy people . . . they are economically invisible. . . . Right now, only 4 billion of the world's 5.6 billion people are adequately nourished . . . but if the entire world switched to a vegan diet, our current food produciton could properly nourish 7 billion people." Chapter 12 has information about the western rangeland and the ravages of cattle grazing. The extent of government involvement and the impact on wildlife is astounding.

Vegan is layman-friendly and extremely readable. It compellingly presents the myriad of reasons to adopt a plant-based diet. It shows why a change in what you eat can be simple yet profound - for your health, for hundreds of millions of animals, and for the planet. There is something to learn for everyone who reads this book. If you're eating animal products before you read this book, I'm pretty sure you'll make some changes when you're done.

For more information about Vegan, visit Erik Marcus' website:

No comments:

Post a Comment