The Food Revolution:
How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World
By John Robbins
Conari Press, 2001
Editors' Note: We are grateful to Joseph Connelly for permission to reprint his book review of The Food Revolution that originally appeared in "VegNews, North America's vegan newspaper, providing up-to-date information on living a cruelty-free and healthy lifestyle." It's been fourteen years since Diet for a New America was published. Since that time the face of vegetarianism has changed. The Food Revolution, aptly named, is a wake up call. It is not The Sun Food Diet. It is Son of Diet.
Revolution is a sequel. John Robbins most certainly could have chosen to revise his classic with a "New Millennium Edition." But instead of The New Diet for a New America, Robbins, never one to take the easy route, has written a thoroughly current book. And with the present state of agriculture, Revolution is as timely, if not more so, than Diet.
"I have written The Food Revolution to provide solid, reliable information for the struggle to achieve a world where the health of people and the Earth community is more important than the profit margins of any industry," Robbins states in his introduction. This sets the tone for the 400 pages that follow.
Robbins writes with a relaxed, mature grace. He's more comfortable with his family roots and not afraid to reference his previous work or pepper passages with humor.
In Part 1, "Food and Healing," a few of the issues addressed are heart disease, cancer, fad diets, and milk mustache ads. Within the text ("Is That So?") Robbins places opposing quotes. You learn, for example, that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association believes "It's a myth that the risk of death from heart disease can be greatly reduced if a person avoids eating a meat-centered diet," followed by Framingham Health Study director William Castelli reporting, "Vegetarians have the best diet; they have the lowest rates of heart disease."
Facts and statistics are prominent in "What We Know" charts scattered throughout the book. All are referenced in the 54 pages of Resources at the end.
Part 2, "Our Food, Our Fellow Creatures," opens with an updated and expanded description of Robbins' encounter with the pig farmer he met while researching Diet (no, he is not Howard Lyman). New issues are explored -- the McLibel trial (how timely); humane agricultural advances in Europe. The section concludes with an emotional letter that Robbins received from a successful attorney after his teenage daughter went veg. The passage will moisten your eyes.
"Our Food, Our World" defines Part 3. Rather than simply facts and numbers, Robbins adds narratives that personalize the environmental consequences of current livestock practices. There's the nameless New Age guru who suffers no harm from eating veal because he can "transform the vibrations" of the tortured animals and an account of the Robbins' family's experience on the television program Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
For the last decade vegan education has been first my passion and now my life's work. I'm exposed to the issues in the opening three-fourths of Revolution on a daily basis and am quite familiar with Diet for a New America. For the first 300 pages of The Food Revolution I tried to distance myself from what I was reading and imagine that I was being exposed to the information for the first time. Since the issues discussed are so close to my heart, at times it was difficult for me to put them in perspective. How would someone unfamiliar with this information feel? I found myself thinking...
Then I read Part IV: "Genetic Engineering."
The pages would not turn fast enough. Admittedly I was not as well versed on the subject. Still, I had my answer. The fresh information was a bombshell, a relentless barrage that read like a good-vs.-evil novel. "FlavrSavr" tomatoes, Monsanto1s Roundup Ready corn and soy (the FDA had to triple the allowable limit of pesticide residues for treated crops for these to be legally harvested), the total global acreage of genetically engineered crops (a 2,500 percent increase between 1996 and 1999). The industry's -- and U.S. government's -- headfirst leap into this new and untested technology reads like science fiction. This is a wake up call that brings Revolution to a crescendo.
It is often said that crisis is needed for change. The mistreatment of animals, the myriad of harmful consequences to one's health and the destruction of the planet should be reason enough to examine what's on your grocery list. While the veg movement has made great strides forward recently, I frequently ask myself: What will it take for more people to center their diets around plant foods? Maybe it will take a Revolution.
The Food Revolution is more important than Diet for a New America. It raises the bar. It has the ability to reach a wider audience, and its issues are more timely and far-reaching than ever before in human history. Give the book to someone you love. Or someone you don't. Because Food has a way of touching people -- and a compassionate Revolution led by love can only succeed.
Review by Joseph Connelly, the Founding Editor of VegNews. To subscribe, contact VegNews at P.O. Box 2129, Santa Cruz, CA 95063-2129 or call 408-358-6478.