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Going Vegan Almost Killed Me with Lierre Keith
I have Lierre Keith. She is the author of a book that I read several years ago. I saw this book at my local bookstore. It said The Vegetarian Myth. I said, “That is a book that I have to read.” It’s packed full of story, full of information and full of data. I couldn’t wait to bring the author of that book onto my show. Lierre, welcome.
Thank you for having me on.
Tell me some of the backstories on that book. You’ve spent twenty years as a vegan. What got you into veganism and how did you eventually get out of it?
I became a vegan in the way that most people become a vegan, which is I knew somebody who was a vegan. That’s the number one root-in is that you have a friend, a colleague, somebody at work who is a vegan and presents you with information that seems unassailable. If you’re a thinking and feeling person, you go, “Animals are being tortured. This is horrible,” then you look into it. A lot of times you’re convinced that this was a good thing to do. I was only sixteen. I didn’t have any counter information for this. You also have to remember this was long before the internet. I had no way to find out whether or not this might be a good way or a bad way to address these problems. I only knew that these were terrible problems. There was another teenage girl, her family were all vegans. They were all into it. Within two weeks of her giving me her initial spiel into this, I was utterly convinced that this was it for my life.
Were you having any health issues at the time? You said you were a sixteen-year-old girl. You got presented this information. It wasn’t for health reasons, meaning you were doing this for health prevention.
It was for that because a lot of people in my family have diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism, this whole collation of things. That was 1980 or something. I remember learning in health class. This is when they had started the whole food pyramid, low fat, all that. I remember the health teacher explaining to us that eating full-fat dairy was going to give us all heart disease. This was state education. As a public school, that’s what we were told. Even him saying it was like, “I can feel it. I could feel my arteries clogging from the whole milk that I drank this morning.” I’m thinking about all the people in my family who had heart disease and diabetes. I’ve got to do something about this while I’m still young. That definitely was a motivating factor. It wasn’t the main motivating factor. It was there. That’s the thing about this vegan worldview is that this one simple act can cure all these problems. Your health, the terrible things that are happening to animals, human injustice, world hunger, global warming, you’re going to solve it all by doing this one thing. It’s a complete package. It seems to make sense if you don’t know better. They hand you this whole world. It’s so easy to do this one thing and you’ll fix it all, everything that’s wrong, so I did it.
Fast forward twenty years, you were feeling lousy. From a health point, you realized it’s not for you. When did you start waking up to the fact that maybe plowing over millions of acres in Illinois to plant soy and corn in Iowa, Nebraska, that’s maybe not good for the environment?
That was a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance that I lived with for that whole twenty years. I was somebody who was very concerned about the state of the planet since I was a tiny child. I remember being four years old and being so upset at everything that I saw around me. “Why aren’t there trees? Why aren’t there wolves? Where are the deer?” I’ve read about these things in books. My whole inner reality was like, “Why can’t I find this place that we should be, which involves all the wild that we’re supposed to be a part of? It was all gone. It was cement and highways and horrible stuff.” A lot of children feel that. We feel that loss. We feel that loneliness. For whatever reason, I didn’t numb myself to it. Up until through my teen years, I thought that strongly and that didn’t stop. I became a vegan.
I’m still trying to figure out, “Why did we destroy the planet? What sense does this make? When did it start? What’s the problem? How did we do this? Why did we think this was a great idea?” Even through all my vegan years, I’ve found the answer to all of this. All my reading, all my studies, even my own experiments with gardening, I could see that this was not true. I couldn’t engage with that information. It was like I was on two tracks because the vegan ideology said this can’t be true. Agriculture can’t be the problem, it’s the solution. You’re in this real bind when you’re a vegan because most people who take this up do care about the planet. They care tremendously about animals. When you try to point out, agriculture is the most destructive thing people could have done to the planet. We’ve wiped out 98% of the habitat of all animals. This can’t be a solution.
I know what that’s like, you don’t want to hear it because it’s like, “No, this is how we’re going to solve the problem. It can’t be the actual problem.” I lived with that for twenty years. The one good thing about when it all collapsed for me was that I was finally able to absorb all that information that I had been back piling over here. I was like, “I can look at this now. I don’t have to be afraid of it anymore.” I can see that agriculture is the root of the large amount of the problem that we’re living with. That became easier, not harder. A lot of the other stuff was harder first. That was right away easier. It was like, “Thank God, I can finally say out loud. Yes, this is not a solution.” That was hard. I get it when vegans don’t want to hear it. It’s like your ideology is in the way of facts. You’re like, “Reality is going to win.” It’s not easy.For most people who take up being a vegan, three months is as long as they last. Click To Tweet
Was there any blow-back from the vegan community from your book? There are some people, I would call them friendly vegans. I don’t mean to throw in insult to all these people out there. I love animals. You’re a dog lover. I’m a dog lover. We’re big animal supporters and donators to rescues and stuff like that. Fundamentally, we’re talking about the best way to live and the best health foods, which to me is our ancestral diets. Not all vegans would agree and some are militantly pro-vegan. You document this in the book too that these people value animal life more than they do human life. Is that true?
They’re in a bind. They’ll make strange arguments like, “If a child was drowning and a dog was drowning, I don’t know who I would pick, but I pick the dog or the child.” That’s silly. We all know we would pick the child. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love my dogs above pretty much everything. We know what we would pick. That’s fine. Every species is allowed to value its own. It’s the young especially. If we don’t have a built-in fail-safe to protect the young, we are never going to survive. That has to be a thing that we have as a species, especially as humans because our young are dependent for so long. That has to be a core thing in our makeup, physically, emotionally, whatever to take care of the young.
They get themselves into these corners where they make these ridiculous hyperbolic situations, which no one is ever going to face. It’s hard to say. What you will see over and over with a lot of vegans is people like me who come forward and say, “I gave it my all. I was the best vegan that you could ever have been. I was so pure. I was so strict. I barely cheated.” It was like every two years, I eat a piece of cheese and feel horrible about it. They don’t want to believe that our health failed. You’ll say, “These are the things that happened to me. This damage is permanent. This is what’s going to happen to you. I can guarantee you’re going to have some of these problems if you do this for more than a few years. We understand why. I can walk you through exactly what you’re missing in your diet and how you’re going to end up in a bad state. It may be permanent.” They do not want to hear it. They will say insulting and horrible things. They have two fallbacks. One is, “You’re not doing it right,” which is ridiculous.
The other one is, “That’s never going to happen to me, but if it did, I would still choose to suffer and be unhealthy and die if I have to rather than let an egg pass into my pure vegan body.” It’s like, “I don’t believe that.” You’re not going to choose to die over this. There are very few people who are going to follow you down that path anyway. You’re asking people to literally die for this ideology. It’s not going to happen. There has to be something better. That’s not a selling point where you might have to die but choose this anyway. People aren’t going to do it. That’s why most people who take up being a vegan, three months is the average. That’s as long as they last is three months. It doesn’t work. You’re hungry and you know it. You’re exhausted and you know it. Most people start to have problems right away. I was so ideological that I overrode all of those signals. Most people are a little bit smarter and not as fanatical. They give it up. They gave it a try. It’s a lark and they’re done because it didn’t work. We know it doesn’t work.
Why is there so much popularity now with The China Study and Caldwell Esselstyn and his son, the firefighter turned nutrition guru? Why is there so much promotion of that? They try out the literature from the Seventh Day Adventist. They say, “Vegans, they live forever.” How do we discuss that?
There are a few things. One is health has declined in this country. We have many more diseases and much larger evidence on it than we did in my parents’ generation, especially my grandparent’s generation. Everybody wants to find out, why is there so much more heart disease? Why is there so much more diabetes, more cancer and all of these things? Those answers are complicated. It’s easy to smack a simple solution on it. People are afraid, their loved ones are sick, they want an easy answer. Booksellers will provide that because if you’ll buy a book, even if it’s a $10 book or $20 book whatever, you’ll buy it. You’ll buy the eBook. You’ll watch the podcast. It’s an easy solution to say, “We’ll try this.” If you fall into the wrong try-this, you’re going to make it worse before you make it better. Most of us aren’t scientists. We’re not doctors. If there’s enough chatter about it across the internet or in the news, you’re going to stumble on it. Oprah has this guru or that diet guru on her show and a million people see it all at once. They’re going to fall for it. They’re going to try it as some percentage of them.
It’s not for bad reasons like, “Because my husband has heart disease. My mother has bad arthritis. I have diabetes,” or whatever it is. You’re looking for solutions, you might as well try it and you’ll buy the book. That’s not bad. We’re all looking for answers to this. We’re asking for a lot more education to get a better understanding of why all of this happened. That’s not easy to do in a sound bite society. We’re two steps back from where we need to be. People need to be more literate about reading medical studies. They need to understand human nutrition or basic science about our body, the evolution where we came from. Once you have a little bit of background in all of that, it gets easy. It’s like, “We have Paleolithic bodies. Shouldn’t we be eating Paleolithic foods?” You can see the difference between a paleolithic diet and a Neolithic diet, which is vegan in the extreme, is the agricultural diet. There are some big differences.
Then you find out that in Paleolithic times, so many of these diseases didn’t even exist. It’s obviously the diseases of civilization. They’re even called that. This is what happens when human populations take up agriculture. They ended up with all the diseases that we think are now normal. That’s a lot of background for a lot of people to stumble across. You have to want the information to find it because you’re not going to get it in pop culture. It’s hard. That’s why what you do is important. What I do is important. Trying to get that basic information out to people, especially people who are desperate and scared. It is important because we’re not going to get it from the government. They are still on the food pyramid thing. They’re going to call it my plate or whatever, but it’s still eating a lot of grain. Keep your saturated fat to a minimum. It’s completely the wrong advice.
We’re still finding all of that even on a policy level. You have problems like poverty where the poverty food right now is going to be chief carbohydrate. That is what’s subsidized by the government. That’s what people are going to eat. If they don’t have enough money, they’re going to head for bulk calories. The cheapest thing is like wheat bran and potato chips. That’s what they’re stuck with, then they’re going to be fat and sick. Their health is going to decline rapidly. These are some big political and social issues, and education is absolutely key. We have to keep trying to explain to people what’s wrong. The thing about the paleo diet or any of these keto diets is that they work quickly to help people that oftentimes the proof happens before your eyes. Within the first week, people feel better and they start losing weight immediately and their joints stop hurting as much. Right before your eyes, you can see how much better people feel. In some ways, we are the best advertisement for it because we show our families and our friends, “Look how much better I am. You can’t deny that I got better.”
I love when people make fun of paleo. They’re like, “It’s another fad.” I say, “By definition, paleo is old stone age. It’s prehistoric. Everything else is a fad.” Amongst the cardiologist, I’m a pariah for many different reasons but certainly for the paleo conversation. I’m anti-statin on drug. I’m anti-pharmaceuticals. I’m anti-going to the hospital and all that stuff. Medical doctors get zero training in nutrition. We have no idea what we’re talking about unless we open up a book, post-undergrad because it doesn’t happen when we’re in medical school. I can’t imagine there are going to be a lot of vegans that are reading this, but they know vegans. How do they get out of the vegan cycle? How did you do that? I know I read this in your book years ago. Did you all of a sudden devour a cow? How did you break it?Asking for a lot more education to get a better understanding of why things happen is not easy to do in a soundbite society. Click To Tweet
It was probably the hardest day of my life. Twenty years in, I have all kinds of problems. I’m basically half dead at that point. I went to see a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, which is a completely different kind of medicine than Western medicine. He was somebody I respected. He was much older than me. He knew all kinds of different diagnoses and had dealt with people’s spiritual concerns as well. He was somebody who I would call an elder. I came to him as more like a student, “How can you help me?” I was willing to hear what he had to say because I certainly had people along the way who say, “You can’t keep doing this. I tried it, but it didn’t work.” Even my sister was like, “You would feel so much better.” She did it for fourteen years. The moment that she ate a piece of fish, she was like, “Lierre, this isn’t going to work. You’ve got to do this.” I was like, “No, I’m not going to be the one who gives up. I don’t care. I’m never going to hurt an animal.”
I went to see this doctor. He took one look at me. It was like, “There’s nothing here. You’re a corpse. What are you doing? What do you eat?” I said, “I’m a vegan.” He was like, “You can’t do this. It’s not possible. Humans can’t do it.” I started crying because I already knew what he was going to say and I also couldn’t bear to hear it. It was built at once and it all came together like, “He’s right.” I know he’s right. I know I’m going to have to stop doing this. I have no idea who I am at the end of this conversation because I was a vegan. That was my identity. Who are you when your ideology crumbles? I was like, “If he’s right, I’m going to try it. I’m going to eat tuna fish because I don’t have to cook it. I don’t have to put it on any of my pure dishes.” It is that level of almost OCD. We don’t even put it in your house. It feels unclean. It’s like this huge taboo. It was like, “It doesn’t have to touch my dishes. I can eat it with a plastic fork. I don’t have to cook it. I’ll take one bite and see what happens.”
On the way home, I got a can of tuna fish and I did it. I took that bite and it all changed. I was like, “He’s right. They’ve all been right this whole time. I can’t keep doing this.” People talked about meatgasm, like orgasm. It was like my entire body was alive for the first time in twenty years. I don’t have a way to explain that in Western science. I know a lot of us have had that experience. They call it chi in the Chinese medicine version. It’s that base level energy finally getting into my body. It was amazing. It was like being recharged in a little plug socket or something. That was it. There was no turning back because I could see that he was right. It was a very hard year and a half to do that. I have a lot of sympathy for vegans. I get these emails all the time from people who are very upset. Their bodies are falling apart.
They know they’re going to have to do it. They need somebody to hold their hands. I do what I can to hold their hands. I know this is a hard thing. You’ll get your health back if you do it. You can explore this whole other world of, “Maybe agriculture isn’t the way forward.” Maybe, in fact, there is a way to get nutrition out of living communities rather than destroying those communities. We can be participants once again rather than destroying everything. There is another worldview that you can embrace this fad that does honor the animals and honors the Earth. Maybe it was all a lie because animals are dying to feed you no matter what you eat. I wasn’t willing to acknowledge that as a vegan. There’s a holistic view that you can embrace with this. It doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t come overnight.
How would you honor the animals? Do you take it to that level when you’re eating? Many times, I’ll speak for myself in our busy household. We don’t say grace. We don’t acknowledge our food. We don’t bless our food. We cook the food and we eat it. We’re always doing organic produce. We’re always doing free range, grass fed animals always. We never veer from that. We always do wild seafood. We never veer from that as well. Is there a part of the honoring of the food that you find to be important to you or not?
There are two parts to that. One is I’m very conscious about where I’m buying things from. I go to some extreme lengths to make sure that I am happy with what’s being done. That the food is being produced in a way that builds topsoil which is absolutely key. If you want to boil it down to one thing, that’s it. If your food is building topsoil, you can eat it. If it’s building topsoil, it means there are ruminants on grass. It means there are pigs that are roaming fruit orchards or through the forest. It means that the chickens and the ducks and whoever is producing your eggs are out as well eating on grasses or through woodlands. They’re contributing their manure and being part of a living system. It’s a community where everybody does their part and that’s what builds topsoil. You have to have ruminants and grasses together in some way or trees and animals as well.
It’s a perennial polyculture. It’s a big word but lots of different plants with animals. That is nature’s model. Every single living community is that. If you’re participating in that, you’re doing a good thing for the planet. You’re building topsoil, which means you’re also sequestering carbon. You’re helping to stop global warming, which is an amazing thing and by buying this food, you can do that. I’m very conscious to support those farms. Also in terms of human justice, it’s a good thing because you’re supporting a small farmer, not the giant corporations. Every dollar you give to those people is like they can reroute to put some money away for kids’ education. They can buy boots and coats and all that and the money circulates.
We know the replication factor when you buy locally is important. You’re supporting a whole human community. On every level, that’s what we should all be trying to do. I know it’s not easy. It’s going to safe way. If you do it, you feel good about it. You can feel like you’re being a participant in all those levels and doing a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with this model. It saves the planet. It helps people, it helps you, all of it. The animals have great lives and that’s good. For my own spiritual practice, I do try to be very conscious on a moment to moment level that I’m alive and it’s a gift and it’s amazing. I’m so thankful that I get to be here and do these things. I never forget that death is involved in every life, no matter what you eat. There are dead animals. There are dead plants and I’m going to die too. It doesn’t end like I will be recycled back in. There’s the sadness of that moment and then the joy of that moment. There’s that bittersweet.
We’re all going to die. I’m going to miss my dogs when they’re gone. I’m going to miss my people. I’ll be part of the foxes and the birds and the purple needle grass and whatever is out there. That’s an amazing thing too. I have no idea what happens next. None of us know, maybe nothing, who knows? My body will certainly be recycled. We can celebrate that because that’s life. That’s what literally what it is. It’s an amazing thing that we get to be here. We celebrate as long as we can. It’s good. All of that is my attitude toward that. There are the things that I do in my own life and I try to support it. The most important thing is to explain to other people what’s going on and to try to get engaged in whatever way we can. These problems are way bigger than any of us are going to solve just by buying the right thing.
I’ve done probably 45 podcasts so far. That last little segment you went into there was absolutely beautiful and so poetic. Thank you for that. Recognizing where we are in the whole spectrum of the universe and the Earth in general and recognizing our role and what it is. Trying to come up with honoring the animal and honoring the vegetables. I say this all the time, “Why can’t a vegan eat an oyster? Does an oyster have any more or lesser feelings than a head of cabbage?” I don’t know. Nobody knows. Honoring all of that food is important.You have to really want the information to find it because you're not going to get it in pop culture. Click To Tweet
We’re pretty amazing beings. All the things that we can talk about and feel and how we’ve become what we are as human beings and how complicated the body is to think it happened random stance from a bolt of lightning that happened in a primordial sea a few billion years ago. There’s got to be something more to it. That’s me personally. Our energy or our chi assumes another form. Maybe we’ve become the plants, the trees, the foxes and stuff like that or maybe it’s something a little higher-level thinking.
I certainly have had my own experiences that tells me that there are other realms and other beings, who mostly care about us. I can’t prove that to anyone. It’s an experience I’ve had. It’s not even a line in the sand I need to draw. I love talking about it with people who are curious about it and who have had their experiences. It’s fun to compare notes. I love reading medieval mystics because it’s like, “I get it. I’m not a Christian, but I completely understand. That was my experience too.” It’s so interesting to compare cross-culturally. I wonder what if this is true. We can’t make public policy on it. There’s no way they will agree to it. You’ve either had it or you haven’t. I know how it motivates my life and that’s enough. That’s all I need.
A vegan trying to crawl out of the vegan hole. Does it matter as far as eating that first bite a tuna? Is it an egg? Where do you stand on dairy?
I do great with dairy. One of the conditions I have that’s permanent is I have degenerative disc disease on four levels of my spine. When I eat good quality, big, fatty dairy, it dramatically helps my pain level. There’s no question. My body likes it. I’m also of Northern European extraction. My ancestors have been eating dairy for a good long time. That is maybe not true for other people on the planet. You have to try it and see how you deal with it. Your body will tell you. You’ll know if you’re getting sick from it. It also helps to have good quality dairy. If you go to the store and buy what’s easily available, you’re talking about a substance that humans have never eaten before.
It’s pasteurized. It’s homogenized. It’s from cows that were fed completely the wrong thing. If you straighten all that out and you’re eating grass-fed cows and it’s not homogenized. Homogenization, people have to understand what it is. They force the milk through a tiny little screen. They break the fat molecules up into small fat molecules. These don’t exist in nature. Nobody has ever eaten this before. Pasteurizing, there are pros and cons. I get that there were diseases. If the dairy is clean, raw milk is not an issue. Way more people have gotten sick from eating pasteurized milk that has been gotten from eating the raw milk. Once the bad bacteria enter the milk, once it’s been pasteurized, there are no good bacteria to fight it off. That’s a true thing. You can look that up if you don’t believe me. The thing about raw milk is that it has enzymes that help us digest it.
I believe you 1000%. That’s why I get to pick the guests for my show because they’re in total agreement with me.
You can try it. To get good quality milk, make sure it’s raw or raw milk cheeses, pasture-raised animals and then try it and see. If your body responds in a positive way, you know you can have it. If you break out in a rash or you get all the different things that might happen, stomachache, whatever, then you know it’s not for you. You could try goat milk, sometimes that’s easier. It’s worth the try because it’s an amazing substance for humans to eat. If it works for you, go for it. I understand people not wanting to do it too. It’s not a judgment. I find it’s yummy and it’s very helpful for my body so I’m all for it. I also have a cheese factory in my town, so that makes it easy to get good cheese. I live in a rural area, which I know makes all of this easier. If you live in a city, you have to travel to get good food. I understand that’s easy for me to say, I lived next door to farms. Other people don’t have it so easy.
You’re based out of California. As far as the laws there, you never know what the next election is going to bring. As of right now, it’s easy to get raw dairy products in California. They’re sold readily. In a lot of states, it’s highly regulated/illegal to do so. For all the reasons that food corporations are restricting our ability to get quality food to make us sick and they make us perennial customers and all those things. Dairy is not paleo, we know that. There is some medicinal value to dairy. We use it more of a treat. It’s raw and you’ve got to make sure it’s from pasture-raised animals. One of the things too that we look at is we make sure that the calf still has an opportunity to nurse off mom for as long as possible, as opposed to the baby is born and now the baby goes over there and mom’s over here. We try and stay cognizant of that as well.
If you can make a personal relationship with a dairy farm, you can find out what their practices are. If you go to the store and buy what’s there, you’re not ever going to know. You have to assume if it’s the factory model that those cows or calves are taken right away. We can’t blame farmers for this. They’re only getting $0.12 a gallon for milk. They’re paid in bulk. They’re not paid for the quality of the milk. They used to get paid by the cream line. That’s why you’ll see things like Creamline Dairy, that’s the name of it. When you have a bottle of milk, the cream separates to the top and the cream is where most of the nutrition is. The more cream, the more nutritious. You would get paid for that. You wouldn’t get paid for purchasing bulk. All of that change. As Corporate America took over the food stream, now they’re paid by the gallon. It’s mostly water. They have bred these Frankenstein cows that can produce 20,000 gallons of milk a year. That’s insane for this one creature.
A traditional cow produces 800 gallons a year, but it’s good quality milk. The traditional saying about cows, because there are four teats on the udder is that the first teat is for the calf. The second is for the farm. The third is for the neighbors and the fourth is to sell in town. That’s how much extra milk a cow can produce. That’s about right. A cow producing this vast quantity, there’s no way there’s going to be nutrition in it. A traditional farm, that’s what you’re going to have. The baby calf stays with the mom until the mother says it’s time to go. It’s weaned on the grass, the life cycle moves on and everybody’s happy. There is no reason to put animals through this except farmers are desperate. They’re only getting $0.12 a gallon. They have to produce as much as they can. That means taking the baby out of the picture. That’s the problem. It’s not the farmers are mean. It’s that they’re under the screws. The more we can support them to do a better thing, the more of them can come over and do the good thing again. They don’t enjoy taking the calves away either. They’re clearly suffering.You can make the wrong choice if you don't have full information, and it's hard to come back once you started down that path. Click To Tweet
Voting with your pocketbook, voting with your wallets and supporting them. I was at an event and I was speaking in Las Vegas. There was a politician that was there. The event had nothing to do with health and wellness. It was an event called Freedom Fest. There were 5,000 libertarians that gathered in Las Vegas. They said, “Do you want to come out and speak about healthcare freedom of choice to 5,000 libertarians?” I said, “Sure, sign me up.” I went out there and I spoke, but before I did, there was a politician who was on. This politician was from Kentucky. The biggest thing that he was spearheading in all of United States government politics was going for raw dairy in the state of Kentucky and across the country. I found him afterward, we started talking about all this other boring stuff that I didn’t care about. All of a sudden, he started talking about raw dairy and bringing that back. Off note, the Wolfsons pay $24 a gallon for raw dairy. That’s about what it’s worth. It makes you value that. That’s the quality too. The nutrients in that, you can’t replace that with conventional milk ever, it’s impossible.
I have a little anecdote too, one of the times that I was working locally to try to legalize raw dairy. I have meetings and various people come and check it out. What can we do to bring this up to town council or how do we make this happen? This guy came to a whole bunch of the meetings. It turned out that he himself was lactose intolerant. He does not even drink milk. He does not eat cheese, but he’s a libertarian. He was like, “On principle, you should be able to buy this so I’m going to work on this issue.” We were all so amazed like, “You don’t even have a dog in this fight.” It’s the principle of saying, “That’s as important.”
To him and anybody else, it’s a matter of, “Once we give the government control over that, what does the government take control over next?”
It’s the principle too, it’s important.
The next thing you know, grass-fed animals aren’t allowed, and you’ve got to vaccinate all the cows and all that crap. Are you still friends with that girl from high school who turned you on to veganism?
No, we lost touch a long time ago. I should ask my sister because my sister was her friend. They were in the same grade. She might have found her on Facebook. I would be curious to know what’s happened to her. She was an absolute wizard and a violin player. She had all kinds of talents. It’s an interesting family all around. She might be up to something interesting. I should find out what happened to her.
Lierre, thank you so much for being on the show. In a lot of ways that book must have been pretty cathartic for you.
It was definitely my survivor mission. I need to tell this story because I didn’t know what sense to make it myself. I also wanted other teenagers not to do this. I wanted them to understand that they’re going to be hearing this from their peers who are very engaged. I want them to stay engaged. I want them to care about the world. I want them to have questions about what we’re doing. All of that is good. Compassion and justice and all of this should be a motivating factor in everything they do. I want to encourage that, but they’re going to be given bad information. They can make the wrong choice if they don’t have full information. I was thinking especially for those teenagers. I want them to hear this before they go off on the wrong path. It’s hard to come back once you started down that path.
The other thing was the people who care the most about the planet don’t seem to understand that this is the damage to the planet. It’s not a solution. I wanted to reach all of them as well. The final thing was I got so tired of having the same conversation over and over. Every time I bumped into one of these people it was like, “Here we go again. We’re going to sit here for two hours. I will walk you through this.” It was like, “I need to write a book,” because then I can say, “Read the book. We can talk after that. You’ll have the same information and then we can debate it.” For all those reasons, that’s why I did it. I am very glad that I did it.
What do you think about women that are vegan having babies? What does that mean?
It’s hard to get pregnant when you’re a vegan. You don’t have the right nutrients in your body. You’ve done nutritional draw there essentially. A lot of them are way too thin. They can’t conceive. They’re not ovulating. Some of them stopped menstruating. That was me, I didn’t menstruate hardly at all. If I had wanted to have a baby, I don’t know how I would’ve done it. There’s that heartbreak right there. The other problem is that your breast milk is not going to have the nutrients that it needs. The breast milk is only as nutrient dense as your diet is. If you’re only eating vegan foods, it’s not going to be there. The vitamin A and vitamin D, it’s fat, you’re not going to have it. It’s very sad. All of the tremendous and the horror stories that come across the news of these people for, I’m assuming the best of reasons, but trying to feed their infants a vegan diet and the child ends up dead, brain damaged, blind, deaf, mentally retarded.
Even when all those things happen, the parents will not listen. The grandparents end up having to take the child. It’s heartbreaking that at that level it’s a cult. You have to admit it. If you’re willing to kill your child for an ideological belief of whatever sort, that is a cult. That’s scary to me that it can get that bad. If a child weighs a pound less than when she was born six months later and having seizures and you still don’t go to the emergency room, that’s a cult. That’s horrible. These are the things as humans that we need to be careful of. We are clearly capable of backing ourselves into ideological corners and believing things that are not true. We all need to not let that happen and be very aware in your own mind. Am I being that ideological? Am I closing myself off from reality? We clearly are very capable of it. It’s a cautionary tale to all of us.
Tell me what’s next for Lierre Keith? How do people find out more about you and where can people go to get your book?
The best thing is to go to my website, LierreKeith.com. The easiest way to find it is if you type The Vegetarian Myth into any search engine and you will find my book. That’s the easiest way to my website. Everything is there. You can buy any other books that I’ve written. You can look at podcasts, interviews, and talks that I’ve done and see what’s coming up next.
It makes me want to re-read the book again. I show it to patients all the time. I get all these cardiology patients that come in from all around the world. They hear another lip service about going vegan and listening to the head of the American College of Cardiology, Kim Williams and all these other vegan authorities in the cardiology space talking about going vegan. They’re like, “What say you?” I’m like, “I have my book here. I’ve got Lierre Keith here.” One of my favorite books too is available on PDF. It’s called The Stone Age Diet by Walter Voegtlin, who was a GI specialist back then. He was all carnivores. It’s cool stuff there as well. Lierre, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for being on this episode of the Healthy Heart Show. You can google The Vegetarian Myth. You’ll have all the stuff right there. It’s an awesome and easy read. Go Paleo. Thank you so much, Lierre.
- The Vegetarian Myth
- The China Study
- Lierre Keith’s Interviews
- The Stone Age Diet
About Lierre Keith
Lierre Keith is an American writer, radical feminist, food activist, and environmentalist.
Lierre is the author of the novels Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel. Her non-fiction works include the highly acclaimed The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability.
She is coauthor, with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay, of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet (Seven Stories Press, 2011) and she’s the editor of The Derrick Jensen Reader: Writings on Environmental Revolution (Seven Stories Press, 2012). She’s also been arrested six times.
She lives in northern California.