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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Reading


Each issue the VIP birds will endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment. In this issue we present a book that reveals how a vegan lifestyle benefits humans, animals, and the entire planet.


The New Ethics of Eating

By Eric Marcus

McBooks Press, 1998

$14.95 Paperback

Like so many others, Erik Marcus did not start out to be a vegan. He was raised in a family that taught him not to harm animals and yet served animal flesh at the dinner table. In his late teens he became aware of the dichotomy and gradually began to eliminate animal products from his diet. The last to go was his cheese pizza. After he developed his cashew cheese pizza, he became totally vegan and has remained so for more than ten years.

Vegan Marcus's vegan odyssey is the last chapter of Vegan: the New Ethics of Eating,a chapter that could easily be read first. The volume is divided into three sections which focus on health, the treatment of animals, and concerns for the planet. In each of the sections there is no effort to harangue about a vegan lifestyle, but instead the argument is humanized by presenting stories of real people who have taken positive steps to help mankind.

The health section which comprises almost half of the book tells the stories of Werner Hebenstreit, Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, Terry Shintani, Suzanne Havala, and Howard Lyman who all share reasons why a plant-based diet is best for human beings.

Werner Hebenstreit survived Hitler and two heart attacks and would probably be dead if he had not volunteered for Dr. Dean Ornish's first group to reverse heart problems. After one year on the Ornish plant based diet, he found his cholesterol at 145, down from 320. After two years his doctors noticed a remarkable reversal of the blockage in his arteries.

Cornell Professor T. Colin Campbell heads the China Health Project which in 1989 gathered 1000 pieces of information on 10, 200 Chinese People. The project report stated, "Chinese who eat the least fat and animal products have lower rates of cancer, heart attack, and several other chronic and degenerative diseases."

Working with obese native people, Hawaiian doctor Terry Shintani has created his Eat More, Weigh Less Diet to guide them back to native foods that are mostly vegan. Because so many foods on a vegan diet are low in calories, one would have to eat a large quantity to exceed the 2000 to 2500 calories needed to increase weight. Shintani says a person would explode if he tried to eat more than 2500 calories of vegan food. A person could reach 2500 calories by eating 1.4 lbs. of cheddar cheese, but would have to eat either 4.6 lbs. of brown rice or 13 lbs. of carrots to reach the same calorie amount.

Dietitian Suzanne Havala formerly believed that a vegan diet was an extreme form of vegetarianism. She now says, "I believe a sensibly planned vegan diet is far healthier than anything Americans follow." She is quite skeptical of the dairy industry efforts to push milk as a necessary source of calcium.

Howard Lyman, the former cattleman who is now a vegan, is crisscrossing the continent to warn people about the dangers of eating meat. His book Mad Cowboyis a warning that the mad cow disease in Britain may also be in the U.S. food supply.

In the section titled "Truth about Food Animals" Marcus focuses on Lorri and Gene Bauston, two of the founders of Farm Sanctuary, who rescue animals originally meant for food. The Baustons have helped to set up two animal sanctuaries, one in New York, the other in California. In the process they have witnessed inhumane treatment of chickens, pigs, cows, and cattle that are used to produce food for humans.

Not so pleasant reading is to be confronted with descriptions of live chicks thrown into grinders, chickens debeaked so they would not harm each other in overcrowded cages, pigs sleeping on concrete slats in dusty rooms with polluted air and the smell of ammonia, male pigs and cattle castrated without anesthetic, cows dehorned, and calves fed a milk diet to create anemia to produce veal, that white meat sought by so many gourmets.

Planetary concerns are emphasized in the final section that tells the story of the team of David Pimentel and Henry Kendall and the efforts of Lynn Jacobs. Pimentel and Kendall conducted a study to determine whether the world food supply could keep pace with population growth. They found that humans are using more land for nonfarm purposes; water supplies are declining; our food production is based on fossil fuel energy sources that are dwindling. They found a "staggering amount of resources" are used to create animal food for humans. They stated that one major way to eliminate world hunger was for humans to move to a vegetarian diet.

Lynn Jacobs operates Page Experimental Farm outside of Tucson, Arizona. His acreage is desert grassland which has been ungrazed for fifty years. It is an oasis surrounded by desolate, overgrazed public lands handed over to ranchers by the federal government that charges them miniscule fees. This type of cattle ranching depletes the land and negatively affects the plants and wildlife in the western states.

In Vegan: the New Ethics of EatingErik Marcus synthesizes his extensive research including personal interviews to stress the problems created by man's desire for a meat- based diet. He is careful not to beat his reader over the head with his message, but instead uses a plethora of facts to make his case. In the list of resources at the back of the book is his notice of the Vegan Foundation which he has founded to promote vegan diets. This book is one of his efforts. His web site http://www.vegan.com continues the crusade.

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