This month we review a book that presents 101 convincing reasons for following a vegetarian diet.
101 Reasons Why the Human Diet
Is Rooted Exclusively in Plants
By Rex Bowlby
Outside the Box, 2003
In Plant Roots: 101 Reasons Why the Human Diet is Rooted Exclusively in Plants, author Rex Bowlby turns SICK and WELL into acronyms.
SICK stands for Self-Induced Carnivorous Killer.
According to the author, 95% of Americans eat a SICK diet that is the underlying cause of most human degenerative diseases, the destruction of the planet, and harm to animals. In 101 brief chapters he has compiled a preponderance of evidence that not only shows the dangers animal protein consumption has on society, but also the value of a plant-based WELL diet on human health and the environment.
One unique comparison he makes is between cigarettes and meat. In the early years of the 20th century, smoking ads featured prominent athletes and doctors who advocated the use of cigarettes. Smoking was promoted as a relaxation device to cope with social nervousness. Non-smokers were even considered odd or anti-social. Looking at a Marlboro label, one became convinced that smoking was a manly pursuit.
The pro-tobacco feeling changed in mid-century when government reports began indicating that smoking was harmful to health. Smoking led to lung cancer. Even people who didn't use tobacco were harmed by second-hand smoke inhaled while associating with smokers. Warning labels appeared on cigarette packages. Smoking was banned in restaurants and other public places. Yet, as recently as 1990, 50% of Americans doubted that tobacco was an unhealthful substance.
The author argues that meat is following a similar pattern, going from a positive boon to health to a negative cause of many diseases. Non-meat eaters or vegetarians are considered antisocial. Meat is considered to be the best source of protein and a necessity for maintaining good health. Real men eat meat. Salads are for women.
By mid-century the American Heart Association declared that too much saturated fat was a health hazard. The best source of saturated fat was meat. Like cigarettes, meat is addictive. The 95% who are on the SICK diet are quick to say that meat is healthy and is a socially acceptable habit.
Bowlby predicts that eating meat will become socially unacceptable, just like smoking. Both will appear in history books as "American Calamities." He posits a future society where there are
Another calamity occurs with the reliance on animal protein as a significant portion of the diet. This has led to depletion of soil, water, and energy as well as pollution of air and water, decimation of forests, and the acceleration of species extinction. Bowlby, like so many other writers, points out the devastation caused by animal agriculture just to put meat on everyone's table. Just disposing of animal waste from factory farms has become a worldwide problem. "Producing one pound of meat generates 17 times more water pollution than producing one pound of pasta." Bowlby credits humans with the near extinction of almost every species during the last two thousand years.
The author's strongest case for a plant-based diet is in the area of disease. He assembles a remarkable quantity of data to implicate animal protein as a prominent factor in heart disease, atherosclerosis, cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Surprising information from studies reveals that children have fatty streaks in their arteries when they are nine months old, show signs of atherosclerosis when they are three, and exhibit scar tissue formation in their teens.
Bowlby speculates that Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative malady, "perhaps the grand finale, brought on by a lifelong diet of flesh eating." He presents studies to show that vegetarians are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's because of the antioxidants in their diet.
Quite distressing is to read of economic forces in society attempting to manipulate the public toward a diet heavy in animal protein. Bowlby shows the flaws of the Food Guide Pyramid and how the beef trade associations and the dairy council were strong influences on its contents. He reveals how heavily the government is involved in subsidizing animal foods. Bowlby is also critical of a health care system that does not focus on prevention, but instead has become an "illness-care"provider.
Rex Bowlby must be commended for the amount of research he has undertaken to produce this fact-laden volume. He has assembled a gargantuan amount of information to support his vegetarian argument. His bibliography contains 1001 items. The References section indicates where in the bibliographical item the supportive material is located.
With this amount of information the writer faces a challenge of not writing a dry, factual tome. In this case Bowlby presents his facts using novel devices like multiple choice quizzes, dialogues, and playlets. The Vore Brothers, Herbert and Carnahan, or Herby Vore and Carney Vore argue about the problems caused by meat eating. In a section called "It's Elementary, My Dear Watson'" the author and Sherlock Holmes appear in a scene discussing asthma and its relationship to milk. His sense of humor is apparent throughout the work.
Plant Roots takes complex material and places that information in an easily digestible format. Breaking the book into 101 sections makes the information quite accessible. Anyone wanting more on a particular subject can find the sources quite readily in the notes at the back of the book. The author's bias is quite evident, but that won't be a problem for vegetarians. On the other hand, the extensive information might aid in transforming non-believers into true believers.
Reviewed November 2003