In Progress: Lierre Keith’s “The Vegetarian Myth”

by hailtothenihilist

Finally I have started to give Lierre Keith’s “The Vegetarian Myth” a good reading. It seems I am one of the readers she expects not to get her or to vehemently disagree. But hey, I am willing to read it to the end which is better than some people, I am sure, who gave up after the introduction.

I can see why they give up. However, I have faith her whole thesis, only a few more pages in, will open up revealing premised conclusions and fewer factual errors and fallacies and outstanding writing. I realise it is easy and tempting to play the error / fallacy card but never (never) have I seen so many in such a short space–I am currently half way through chapter 1, “Moral Vegetarianism”. One of the most annoyingly silly things I have read so far is in one breath she denounces vegans as anthropomorphising, then in the next she writes of the “wants” of plants and their seed-babies. If it wasn’t for the language the argument might have been a little more compelling. What is she trying to do? Appeal to a simpler audience? If so, set our expectations for that. I was expecting something rigorous and intellectual.

Another failure by Keith is her brief touch on agriculture–which I hope she expands on later in the book. Animals are necessary for grass and soil she argues. It’s natural and good. This is a position held by most interested animal agriculturists. It fails to appreciate what the land looked like in its natural state, though. Land is systematically deforested for agricultural purposes–to grow plants too–and would be better off left, or potentially returned to, its original state.  Does native forest need the contribution of introduced animal species? No. (This isn’t an attempt to rebut the whole agriculture argument, just an opinion. The whole thing will come in later blog posts or my full review of the book.)

It’s the sort of book you have to read with a fat notebook next to you. Which is good. I like my thoughts being conjured as I read. Though, it is as infuriating as it is provokative both in the content and style. Wish me luck.