The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

The Truth About Vegetarianism

lascauxhuntersThe Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability is, to me, a perfect followup to Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, which I waxed ecstatic about a couple years ago. Such a powerfully as well as sympathetically stated case against all the arguments underlying vegetarianism is long, long overdue.

Keith, a former, very committed vegan, takes the reader through her own long journey and ultimate disillusionments, considering carefully the full range of initially compelling reasons why idealistic people, especially young women, become seduced by the vegetarian lifestyle: the desire to not kill, the desire to be better to the planet, and the belief that eating only vegetables is the best thing for the human body. She beautifully chronicles her own acceptance of these arguments and how, in the end, all of them fell apart—along with her body, which was devastated by this lifestyle. Women who have drunk or are in danger of drinking the kool-aid of vegetarian thinking should be captured and forced to read this book.

The symbolism and psychology behind vegetarianism has always interested me. A huge force behind the modern vegetarian movement was feminism. Vegetarianism became popular when women became empowered. After the hippies died out, the major demographic duped into eating only vegetables was women. Don’t deny it: Most of the vegetarians you know are women.

The reason for this link between womanhood and vegetarian ideals is simple: In our society, as in most if not all societies around the world, vegetables (and by extension grains) are symbolically linked to femininity, and meat to masculinity. There’s the obvious male/hunting, female/gathering thing. It’s not a myth. Anthropology pretty much bears out this division of labor for most societies. Even in a modern, urban world, stereotypes of food gathering break along the same gender lines: Men hunt or ranch; women (and sort of “metro” men) garden and shop (when they aren’t doing yoga, which is the most ineffectual martial art after Tai Chi—but that’s another post).

It was no accident that the idea of putting lots of veggies on our plates came to dominate nutritional thinking exactly when women were struggling for equality, during the sixties and seventies. Vegetables were empowered along with women: The same way women took back the night, vegetables took over our plates. Suddenly, coincidentally or not so coincidentally, meat started to be viewed by nutritionists as unhealthy.

I grew up during this period, in a household dominated by the belief in vegetables. We weren’t vegetarian, and my mother was a little too old to be a “feminist” per se, but she gardened heavily and made my dad and I eat lots of really boring and tasteless vegetables–squash, tough fibrous beans, more squash, sweet potatoes, and so on—because they were good for us.

I’m not denying that some vegetables are good for you, and a healthy diet makes a place for them, and always has. But the symbolic nature of food sometimes trumps nutritional reality, and during the period I grew up—the period of female empowerment—the reputation of meat eroded right along with male self-esteem, and that wasn’t a good thing. The problem was, the basic rationale for vegetarianism had nothing to do with nutrition. It had to do with changing our symbolic constitution. Even today, vegetarians are not eating vegetables. They are eating symbols of all things moral and peaceful and wholesome and nonviolent and loving toward the planet.

Don’t underestimate the symbolic power of food. Among the other food insults I endured during the seventies was wheat bran. Every morning we had to stir a tablespoon or so of bran in water until it dissolved and drink it down. LOL. I just made a joke there, but you probably didn’t get it. Bran doesn’t dissolve. We had to stir vigorously to get the brown flakes suspended in the water, then chug it down fast before it could settle to the bottom. It always made a big lump in our throats. Sometimes I choked.

Bran tastes like sawdust, because that’s basically what it is. I suppose it cleansed our bowels, scouring them bright shiny healthy pink. I saw my colon in live action once, during a colonoscopy; it was like a big twisty cavern, and besides the amazing paleolithic artwork, its walls were indeed nice and clean and pink. But the main benefit of all that bran was symbolic: Bran was a way of getting trees into our bodies. Trees, those symbols of ecology and purity and all things good and wholesome and peaceful and feminine. Things to be hugged and not shot. Getting lots of fiber in your diet is really the ultimate form of tree hugging.

(Yeah, I know bran is not actually wood. But you know what I mean.)

The fact is, any nutritional argument for vegetarianism has been shown to be baseless. Research studies supposedly supporting it, such as The China Study, have been blown out of the water—the authors fudged their interpretations of the data and were card-carrying members of PETA. They were bad scientists because they were biased. If you don’t believe me, just do a bit of research. And I’ve already written about the physical and mental advantages of a Paleolithic diet (i.e., high-protein and fat, no grains), so I won’t repeat.

And lest you think that vegetarianism saves animal lives, guess again. Keith devotes a section of her book to how how cultivation of plants and grains kills animals, kills whole species, and kills ecosystems.

But the one argument for vegetarianism that always seemed persuasive to me was that meat eating is unsustainable and basically unfair. The argument is that you can yield more calories by cultivating vegetables, and better yet grains, from an acre of land than by pasturing livestock on it, and thus meat eating is ecologically irresponsible in a world full of hunger. It’s the whole Francis Moore Lappe Diet for a Small Planet idea, which progressives embraced during the seventies.

I always assumed Lappe was right, and so resigned myself to the possibility that the human dietary optimum might not be optimal for an overpopulated planet. Nutrition vs. ecology could, I figured, present us with a choice as insoluble as the fiber my mom made us drink. But the great thing about Keith’s book is that she shoots the nonsustainability argument out of the water too. This was the eye-opener for me. She makes a persuasive case that our diet of refined grains and factory farmed vegetables is as destructive and unsustainable in planetary terms as it is for our bodies, and that pasturing animals on grasses is the best remedy for both (an argument that dovetails well with that of Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma). Factory farming of grain is horribly destructive to the environment; just think of all the petroleum and chemicals it floods the environment with–creating for instance a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey. I’m still not 100% convinced that pasturage and the whole food movement could sustain the world’s population, but Keith makes a strong case, and provides a much needed corrective to Lappe. I’d say this argument is the most important and unique contribution her book makes to current debates about diet.

There’s a reason that the walls of my perfectly healthy colon are covered with ancient paintings having hunting themes: hunters with bows and arrows chasing herds of bison and woolly mammoths, shamans dressed in the skins of animals, just like the fingerpainted images that come alive in the flickering torchlight in the caves at Lascaux, France. Humans evolved to eat animal protein and fat. Meat and fat are good for you. If you want to be healthy and happy and not beset by inflammatory bowel disease, vitamin deficiencies, acne, and tooth decay, you should eat meat and fat. And if you want to do a favor for the planet, you should stop eating grains. However much vegetarians want it to be true that their diet is making them pure and healthy, all it gives them is gas and bad skin, and in the long run makes them fat and diabetic (from all the grains, rice, and potatoes they eat instead of meat).

You know this—you just haven’t admitted or acknowledged it to yourself. Consider this post (and The Vegetarian Myth) an intervention. I’m not against feminism, obviously. But sorry, gals. A diet based solely on veggies and grains is bad for your bodies, and it’s bad for Mother Earth.


I am a science writer and armchair Fortean based in Washington, DC. Write to me at eric.wargo [at]

34 Responses to “The Truth About Vegetarianism”

  • Well, it seems there are a few ideas to consider in your summary and the book mentioned. You have to admit though, that humans eat too much meat. There’s no real need to as we lead a substantially different lifestyle to our ancestors. I don’t eat meat and I admit that it is a selfish decision. I feel better about myself not eating an animal I wouldn’t want to kill with my own hands. This is not moral or absolute – just personal. I see some things in terms of black and white i.e. music and literature but where ethics are concerned there are only shades of grey. Hah, but we humans like simplicity – good/bad, black/white. Gombrowicz spent his life railing against such unimaginative attitudes.

  • I’m sympathetic to the not wanting to eat an animal you wouldn’t be able to kill argument. I’ve come along way in my own life in accepting hunting–when it is done in reverence and for food, not for sport. I was brought up in gun-hating, hunting-hating family; it is the realization that, as Keith says, life is eating and being eaten (on every level, including the cellular), and that it is part of who we are, that has changed my mind. But yes, I would have a hard time doing it myself, unless forced. So you’re right, there are no easy answers. But I sense that meat-eating peoples living close to nature do have a reverent, not exploitative, relationship to their food, and certainly the whole food movement is trying to get closer to that.

  • Wonderful post, Eric. I especially liked the tour of your colon. It almost inspires me to get a colonoscopy. As it is I’m due for an MRI from chronic back pain, possibly due to all the minerals being leached out of my system by grain? The good news is that I just finished Keith’s book as well and I have officially renounced my former veg ways after a dozen years. My mind is still reeling with my former belief system having been capsized but my energy soars. Now I just pray that I haven’t screwed up my kids with all the soy I’d been feeding them. Looking forward to reading Taubes’s book as well. Thank you!

  • Thank you, Elise! It’s inspiring when people are able to let go of long-held and cherished beliefs. I hope I didn’t come off as too condescending toward vegetarians — I too have given that diet a shot (although never could stick with it). It’s just that we’ve been bombarded by so much wrong science and wrong ecology for so many years. I think you’ll really like Taubes’ book. It can be a bit of slog at times, but it too was a serious eye-opener for me. I quickly gave up the “low fat” idea (as well as giving up most grains), and I’ve never felt better, not only physically but also mentally. I’ve started to think the brain fog effect of grains has been as destructive of our civilization as the physical and ecological degradation.

    Best of luck and good health to you.

  • I’m glad you read the book.

    I did the vegan thing for a very long time myself, and there nothing but bad health outcomes from that experiment – acne, depression, thyroid dusfunction from all the soy, eczema, brand new allergies…

    I wish I had this book back when I was 15, I could have prevented a lot of damage to myself.

  • theres a reason why ancient india, and much of europe imposed vegetarianism on its people by force, its because it keeps you docile , feeble minded, and physically weak, in other words, the perfect subject, eh? i hate the world, so full of ignorance, which is exploited by those in power.

  • The vegetarian/vegan “kill argument” is kind of funny. It seems like no one is concerned about taking the life of plants which provide oxygen to everyone. They move with the sunlight and respond to water, shade, and all sorts of things. That matches the definition of living.

  • You really don’t know much about Tai Chi. Do some research. It’s a real martial art and extremely effective. (Trust me on this.) There is also Tai Chi that people do for health which has the forms but not the fighting techniques. (Most but not all of what I do. And it’s extremely difficult if you’re doing the long form and doing it right.) And then… There is the new age crap that isn’t really Tai Chi but moving snake oil.

    Ancient peoples respected the life and animals they killed for food. They knew and understood that they were taking lives and were thankful and respectful toward this natural cycle. Vegetarianism will continue to be spurred on by this disconnect which is furthered by the horrors of industrial farming.

  • Hi David, I was actually kidding about Tai Chi — a joke aimed at my friends who practice it. You’re absolutely right, it is a formidable martial art.

  • Kyndi — you need to read “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston A. Price. You’ll never believe in vegetarianism again.

    Oh, and by the way, we do NOT have all the characteristics of plant-eaters. A physiologically comparable organism that was designed to live as a preagricultural vegetarian would require a much larger gut volume for digestion; the gorilla is a perfect case in point. Our smaller, more compact body — supporting a large fat rich brain — is possible only for a species that, absent agriculture, ate a lot of concentrated nutrients from animals, the only year round source of such in the wild. Human vegetarianism is very much an agricultural luxury, as the seed based foods (wheat, beans, lentils,etc) needed to provide sufficently protein/calorie dense intake were not available on a consistent basis until farming began. Before that, we HAD to hunt, at least most of the year.

    That said, and although I do love hunting, I’m the first to admit that meat, especially grassfed organic stuff from Whole Paycheck market, is expensive. (And so are hunting trips.) Also, I’m quite fond of lentils, black beans, brown rice,etc, So I’d be perfectly content to subsist on a diet of mainly grains and beans, with meat relegated to the status of an occasional treat, for both culinary and economic reasons. But I’ve learned the hard way that I feel absolutely horrible on such a diet, and it puts me on the fast track to type 2 diabetes. Whether I like it or not, whether my wallet likes it or not, and whether you and your kind like it or not, I need to eat lots of meat. Other people have a different physiology and can get by on relatively limited animal foods. But going to zero is a bad idea for anyone.

    As for “sharp pointy teeth” (for some reason that phrase called to mind a scene from the Grail…), you fall victim to a common misconception that our ancestors couldn’t be carnivores because we don’t have fangs. Well, you’re confusing two issues: our teeth are indeeed well adapted for CHEWING meat… just not for KILLING it: our ancestors invented spears instead of evolving fangs. We invented poisoned darts and arrows, instead of evolving venom. And we invented clothes when we moved to the cold zones, instead of evolving fur. And so on. Remember, we’re tool users — we copy animal adaptations with technology rather than waiting around for natural selection.

  • Amazingly well written? I must have read a different book. There were no scientific facts to support his claims and not much logic. If all it takes is to write opinions that you agree with to make a great book, then maybe you should just read fiction.

  • Anything in extreme is bad. Period.

    I’m not against meat per se, but against the current way meat is provided to the masses. When we eat meat in our family, it is certified to be free of herbicides (from the grains), pesticides, antibiotics, and artificial hormones. In short, when we eat meat it must be certified organic. Not everyone agrees with this philosophy, and that’s ok too.

    Americans as a whole eat an EXCESSIVE amount of meat, which is what leads to sustainability problems, not simply because they eat meat. We’ve also been conditioned to believe we need huge amount of animal-protein in our diets, which is simply not true. Some, possibly. But not the 1g per pound of body weight many like to espouse in the athletic community.

    As with most things, everything in moderation.

  • Tried vegetarianism (not a vegan, though) for 5 years and ended up with low B12 and D vitamins. I’ve gone back to eating animal products regularly, including beef, which I love, and notice a lot less brain fog. Still, I’m a wanna be vegetarian, not because of any aversion to killing, but because the quality of our animal products is so poor and the suffering imposed on the animals on these farms does not seem like it would produce a “healthy” source of food. Soy is not an alternative for me-some kind chemical used to process soy makes it pretty toxic. Now that I’m eating meat and animal products more often, I have less brain fog, and can sustain energy from one meal to the next, but I’m heavier and crave sugar more, and haven’t checked but am sure my cholesterol is up (if you believe in the hazards of cholesterol)…Basically, I have no idea what to eat any more,..still in search for the perfect diet where I feel well all the time….no one has mentioned the China Project…that seemed pretty convincing. The only thing I’m sure of is not to eat gluten…’m at an I give up point and not too happy about it. Any thoughts?

  • Yes, being vegetarian can be difficult for most people who do not already find it easy to eat a variety of foods. To simply be a ‘pastaterian’ is no better than to live solely off of bacon. It is important, as is in any diet, to be certain to include a cornucopia of foods. Certainly, B12, the nutrient found to be most deficient in many vegetarians, and the one responsible for preventing ‘mental fog,’ is hard to come by in most food products, unless it is a ‘living food’ such as yogurts, Japanese Kimchi, Kombucha (a fermented tea), sauerkraut, miso, brewer’s yeast, etc., and can easily be supplemented by weekly or daily B12 supplementation. As far as vitamin D, the second most deficient nutrient in vegetarians, that is merely a sign that you are not eating enough of a variety of actual vegetables, more specifically, leafy greens.

    Remember, those who do not eat meat call themselves VEGETARIANS, the emphasis being placed on the importance of VEGETABLES, NOT GRAINS! Grains have long been considered to be hard to digest, hence the need to process them in multitudes of ways which typically strip them of their core nutritional properties. Modern dietician will mostly agree that most humans eat too many carbs (mainly from grain based sources) and, especially in modern western diets, too much protein. You are absolutely right about the benefits of a high protein/high fat diet, but that is regarding unsulfurated proteins and unsaturated fats, the types most often found in legumes, seeds, and nuts, and to a lesser degree, whole grains and vegetables. And yes, vegetables, more often than not, do actually contain at least some protein. With this said, it is once again important to stress the importance of eating a variety of protein-filled foods when vegetarian, as only a select handful of plant based sources of protein offer a balanced blend of all the essential amino acids needed for cellular reproduction and maintenance. Examples include the grains Quinoah, Amaranth, and Buckwheat (all three of which are gluten free), the seeds of the hemp plant (and no you don’t smoke it), and the legume, Soy, as well as its healthier versions– its fermented cousins, Tempeh and Miso.

    Regarding soy, I try to avoid it as a vegetarian, as with gluten containing grains (and especially boiled wheat gluten, known as Seitan, which is especially hard to digest even for the most tolerant of guts), mostly because it is too easy to find the processed forms of it in many meat-less substitutions marketed to vegetarians, as well as other products in general. In addition to soy products contributing to the homogeny of a vegetarian diet, soy has long been considered an industrial precursor, not a dietary staple. Even the ancient Chinese, who depicted the first use of soy, included it amongst the 5 Sacred Grains. However, they never showed it as being used as a food source either for humans or animals as they did with the other four grains sacred integral to their society, but instead depicted it as being used for inks, waterproofing and combustible oils, and most importantly, as ‘Uniting the heavens and the Earth,’ giving them the ability to fertilize the land which it is grown on, as is typical with most nitrogen-fixing legumes. With the discovery in Feudal Japan that when fermented into Tempeh or Miso (which also adds to its B12 content), soy became more suitable for the human digestive tract, the introduction of soy as food began. Even this however, was included only in small portions of the Japanese diet because they understood the importance of dietary diversity. Also, because of the cost associated with the process of fermenting soy, Tempeh and Miso were mostly reserved for the wealthy and nobility of the time, while whole soy (Edamame included, even though it is essentially ‘baby’ soy) was introduced as a protein supplement to peasant diets in lieu of their main source of protein on the island, fish. However, even today in Japan, the amount of whole soy typically eaten in one week is less than what the average American, vegetarian or not, eats in one day, based on the amount of foods it is processed into. Modern science has shown that the reason for soy’s lack of usage as a food in ancient China and Japan stems from a chemical in it that clogs receptors in mammalian intestines and prevents the absorption of many essential vitamins and minerals, and can lead to malnutrition and weight loss. Animal husbandry has also shown that livestock fed soy based diets typically will be leaner, but that the milk and meat produced by these animals tend to be lower in essential nutrients, leading to long term health detriments associated with inadequate nourishment.

    In regards to livestock animal diets, it is also important to remember, that while many vegetarians still prefer a plant based diet as a means to prevent animal suffering, some, myself included, consider it a means of curbing world suffering as a whole. While I will agree that modern mono-cropping practices, even when considered ‘organic’ in nature, do consume vast swaths of land, limiting the natural biodiversity of the area and decreasing native populations of animals and plants across the board, there is an ever increasing demand for mono-crop farming as the livestock population increases to meet the “needs” of the modern western diet, and its love for cooked flesh. Considering that plant based foods produce more kilocalories per unit of input than animal based foods… simply put, vegetable based diets undoubtedly could feed many more people across the world.

    When one stops to consider that the amount of plant based feed, water, and fossil fuels that go into the production of livestock, it is certain that our selfishness in diet has worldwide repercussions. A study from Cornel University postulates that “If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million…[and], if those grains were exported, it would boost the U.S. trade balance by $80 billion a year.” This is largely because, on average, “For every kilogram of high-quality animal protein produced, livestock are fed nearly 6 kg of plant protein.”

    In respect to water usage, possibly an even more important and finite resource than arable land, as it is what makes the land usable, the study goes on to state that “Animal agriculture is a leading consumer of water resources in the United States…Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food. Raising broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to make a kilogram of meat. In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat, 900; and potatoes, 500 liters.”

    Aside from possibly caring about feeding the starving people of the world and preserving our water supplies for future generations, most people can directly appreciate the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, if for no other reason than to save a few dollars while filling up your gas tank on your new Hummer H2. Considering that the Cornel study suggests that “Animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein while yielding animal protein that is only 1.4 times more nutritious for humans than the comparable amount of plant protein,” it is no wonder why “nearly 1/3 of the fossil fuels produced in the United States go towards animal agriculture” leading us to having to import upwards of 50% of our oil to fulfill other needs.

    Further, in an article discussing the ecology of vegetarianism, as found on ‘,’ there are substantial findings, including “A report in the New Scientist [that estimates] that driving a hybrid car rather than an average vehicle would conserve a little over one ton of carbon dioxide per year. A vegan diet, however, consumes one and a half tons less than the average American diet. [Meaning that] Adopting a vegan diet actually does more to reduce emissions than driving a hybrid car! With the energy needed to produce a single hamburger, you could drive a small car twenty miles.”

    Aside from all this environmental mumbo jumbo, I think it is most important to realize that as long as you respect the fact that the human body is a very precise machine in regards to dietary needs, it is easy enough to gather all the nutrition needed on a daily basis through plant based sources. Snack on nuts and seeds, high in a variety of essential amino acids, healthy fats, and micro-nutrients, and increase your intake of true vegetables and fruits to fulfill your daily needs of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates (including fiber), and you won’t need worry so much about grains as a source of carbohydrates, but do try to avoid eating any one source too often. That is really where eating animals and animal products has gone awry– consuming them as a primary source of nutrition morning, noon, and night.

    But then again, what do I know? I’m just a foggy headed, metrosexual, post-hippy, yoga-posing, tai-chi fighting, murderer of plant, just like: Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Pythagoras, Leonardo Da Vinci, Socrates, Darwin, Plato, Sir Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Confucius – Yehudi Menuhin, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Voltaire, Leo Tolstoy, Thoreau, Martina Navratilova (Tennis player – won Wimbledon nine times), Carl Lewis (nine time Olympic champion sprinter), Edwin Moses (Olympic champion hurdles), Billie Jean King (Tennis), Joe Namath (football), Stan Price (world record bench press), Bill Pearl (four time Mr. Universe), Dave Scott (six time winner Ironman Triathlon), Charlene Wong Williams (Olympic champion figure skater).

    Oh wait, i don’t think any of them fit that description fully…. hmmmm.

    Great points of view from some of the great vegetarians:

    I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.
    He was a vegetarian. His parents, being devout Hindus, never gave him meat, fish, or eggs.
    “I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.” –

    “Oh, my fellow men, do not defile your bodies with sinful foods. We have corn, we have apples bending down the branches with their weight, and grapes swelling on the vines. There are sweet-flavored herbs, and vegetables which can be cooked and softened over the fire, nor are you denied milk or thyme-scented honey. The earth affords a lavish supply of riches, of innocent foods, and offers you banquets that involve no bloodshed or slaughter: only beasts satisfy their hunger with flesh, and not even all of those, because horses, cattle, and sheep live on grass.” The biographer Diogenes tells us that Pythagoras ate bread and honey in the morning and raw vegetables at night. He would also pay fisherman to throw their catch back into the sea.

    “Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstinence from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of mind the first man touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, set forth tables of dead, stale bodies, and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that has a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb”
    How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? It is certainly not lions or wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us. For the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.”
    He then delivered this challenge to flesh-eaters: “If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax.”

    “He who does not value life does not deserve it.” He considered the bodies of meat-eaters to be “burial places,” graveyards for the animals they eat. His notebooks are full of passages that show his compassion for living creatures. He lamented, “Endless numbers of these animals shall have their little children taken from them, ripped open, and barbarously slaughtered.”
    “I have learned from an early age to abjure the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

    JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU He maintained that meat-eating animals are generally more cruel and violent than herbivores. Therefore a vegetarian diet would produce a more compassionate person. He even advised that butchers not be allowed to testify in court or sit on juries.

    STATED the advantages of a vegetarian diet. “It may indeed be doubted whether butchers’ meat is anywhere a necessary of life. Grain and other vegetables, with the help of milk, cheese, and butter, or oil, where butter is not to be had, afford the most plentiful, the most wholesome, the most nourishing, and the most invigorating diet. Decency nowhere requires that any man should eat butchers’ meat.”

    He became a vegetarian at the age of sixteen. Franklin said “greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension.” In his autobiographical writings, he called flesh-eating “unprovoked murder.”

    “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

    was a committed vegetarian. In his essay “A Vindication of Natural Diet,” he wrote, “Let the advocate of animal food force himself to a decisive experiment on its fitness, and as Plutarch recommends, tear a living lamb with his teeth and, plunging his head into its vitals, slake his thirst with the steaming blood … then, and then only, would he be consistent.”
    Shelley’s interest in vegetarianism began when he was a student at Oxford, and he and his wife, Harriet, took up the diet soon after their marriage. In a letter dated March 14, 1812, his wife wrote to a friend, “We have foresworn meat and adopted the Pythagorean system.” Shelley, in his poem Queen Mab, described a Utopian world where men do not kill animals for food.
    … no longer now He slays the lamb that looks him in the face, And horribly devours his mangled flesh, Which, still avenging Nature’s broken law, Kindled all putrid humors in his frame, All evil passions, and all vain belief, Hatred, despair, and loathing in his mind, The germs of misery, death, disease and crime. The Russian author Leo Tolstoy became a vegetarian in 1885.
    Giving up the sport of hunting, he advocated “vegetarian pacifism” and was against killing even the smallest living things, such as the ants. He felt there was a natural progression of violence that led inevitably to war in human society. In his essay “simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to moral feeling – killing.”

    By killing, Tolstoy believed, “man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity – that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself – and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel.”
    “A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore, if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”

    (Names and quotes taken from

  • Why you guys hating on the vegetarians?

  • Thanks for this excellent post, i do eat vegetarian sometimes…i find your article is really very useful for me.

  • […] farms, she is against the foods we avoid. Here’s a well thought out review by Eric Wargo: Clubbing Vegetarians Over the Head With the Truth. [Kindle edition […]

  • I never knew that vegetarian diet is not that healthy as others claimed to be. Good thing I didn’t succumb to my friends pressure for me to be vegetarian..Now I have something to say against her..Thanks a lot for the post

  • Amazingly well written? I must have read a different book. There were no scientific facts to support his claims and not much logic.

  • wow! well written!! very informative!! but i think it shouldn’t just be veggies, the body also needs proteins from meat! regardless of the differences i respect you as a great writer!! thanks for this!!

  • Great article, thank you. I eat paleo, fits my lifestyle as a hunter and fisherman perfectly too, added bonus. It is the only diet that FINALLY makes sense.


    ~ I love vegans, they are organic, grassfed, and taste like chicken!

  • Grain and other vegetables, with the help of milk, cheese, and butter, or oil, where butter is not to be had, afford the most plentiful, the most wholesome, the most nourishing, and the most invigorating diet. | 😛

  • I think it is most important to realize that as long as you respect the fact that the human body is a very precise machine in regards to dietary needs, it is easy enough to gather all the nutrition needed.

  • this post is very interesting, that’s why i couldn’t help myself but to leave a comment. been practicing yoga and being vegetarian is one of the practices too, and by reading this post gave me so much information about vegetarianism. thanks!

  • Eric although you are the editor and writer but after reading this post Nobody can say that you are only editor or writer till he/she never read about you. Because after reading this post I thought the writer of this post must be well known nutritionist. You have describe vegetarianism in excellent manner.

  • really GREAT!!!! i have never read a post much more informative and more well-written than this one!! i find i t hilarious that women try to stuff their fill with veggies! too much of everything is bad that’s what my grandma always say!! eating veggies is a must but not to the extent that you won’t eat meat at all!! meat are also heaven sent!! great post!! you write very well!!

  • I have no idea what to eat any more,..still in search for the perfect diet where I feel well all the time….no one has mentioned the China Project…that seemed pretty convincing. The only thing I’m sure of is not to eat gluten…’m at an I give up point and not too happy about it. Any thoughts?

  • I have learned from an early age to abjure the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.

  • And always make sure it’s 100% organic (some companies
    load their superfood up with Niacin and other non-organic components — go for the organic green superfood
    and avoid the Niacin hangover). But even more concerning was
    I contacted Jeremy Saffron who is a good friend of mine and he told me that he too thought it
    was once good and he did more research and found out it really wasn’t.
    The factors included above determine your Daily energy expenditure.

  • Joanna, it shouldn�t be bitter. If anything it ought to be mellow plus virtually a touch sweet. Raw sunflower butter can be a gray color too. Still tasty.

  • Gluten-free bread is widely available in supermarkets and you can pick up gluten-free biscuits as a treat as well.
    Having these starches every once in a while is ok, just don’t make it a habit until when you
    reach your goals weight. Have coolers available to keep refrigerator food cold if the power is
    going to be out for over four hours.

  • I am a 17 year old female vegetarian and I have to disagree with some of your statements regarding vegetarianism. I would like to suggest that you be a little less universal with what you claim as what you have written is simply not true for everybody but comes across as though it is. (I am not criticizing, I very much enjoy your writing style, I just thought I would offer an alternative viewpoint).
    I became a vegetarian when I was eight years old. I come from a family where everybody ate meat and I had barely come into contact with the topic of vegetarianism when I decided, as a young child, that I just did not want to eat an animal. Sometimes it can be that simple. Aged eight, I had no concept of men being hunters and females being obsessed with vegetables and health (we are an eat-what-you-want and share the responsibility of household duties sort of family, if you were interested in our views regarding nutrition and feminism). So, these notions could not have had any impact on my decision. There was simply a part of me that loved animals so much that I couldn’t eat them. It can be that simple.

    Also, I understand that it may have been to add a comical aspect to your work, but the claim that we have bad skin and poor health is far too bold. As an individual who hasn’t eaten meat for nine years but has gone through the rather turbulent (and hormonal) period of puberty on a meat free diet and has never suffered from spots in anyway, and from observing my other vegetarian friends (an equal mix of males and females, may I add) none of whom have ever suffered from skin issues, I would have to suggest that your claim is not strictly true.

    It is possible to lead a healthy life as a vegetarian and I am living proof of this. I have never had a problem with my bowels, if you’re smart about your diet then avoiding vitamin deficiencies is easy and my teeth are as right as rain. I’ll let you know if I ever become drastically obese and diabetic and I’ll take back my comments but at the present moment, I’m a healthy UK size 8 and I think I’m doing okay. (I am not claiming that eating meat is unhealthy, either. I would never try to persuade my friends to not eat meat and I understand that meat is an easier path to protein than substitutes however it remains true that both vegetarians and meat eaters can be healthy.).

    I enjoyed reading your work and I hope my comment offers a little insight from a vegetarian viewpoint.

  • Hi Fran, thanks for your comment!

    I wrote this post several years ago when I was on a Paleo diet kick, so some of what I said was a bit overstated. I totally acknowledge that there are good reasons for vegetarianism, especially the basic decision not to want to eat an animal because of compassion. It’s a trade-off I always think about because I too am an animal lover. I’m lucky to be able to afford to buy meat and dairy products from pasture-raised livestock, since industrial agriculture–unfortunately, what most of the world’s meat consumers are limited to–is a shocking outrage.

    There are no right answers when it comes to diet. My main disagreement is with the supposed “naturalness” of the vegetarian diet. Even if it is a diet that increasing numbers of people such as yourself are able to make viable, it does so only through vitamin supplementation (B12 etc.) and other modern advantages. It isn’t what the human body is optimally adapted for, and even so-called vegetarian cultures still consume animal protein, not only through milk but also through the insect parts that are a normal component of cultivated grains.

    I appreciate your viewpoint, though, and I support your vegetarian choice.


  • What are we arguing?

    For example, look at the Chinese.
    30 years nazschad it was quite small people.

    Now the power in the country has improved, and ordinary Chinese soldiers, barely fit through the hatch battle tank.

    Incidentally, this is a problem for the Army, modernezirovat so is not easy.

    And if Chinese from childhood rostet in Europe or America, it has the dimensions of growth and as a European.

    It is solely due to meat diet.
    I have a profile in the photo, Mortadella sausage.

    When the Chinese see such dimensions sausage, they fall into a stupor of pleasure.

    Thank you