Friday, May 23, 2008

Aspects of Vegetarianism

Dewey's latest challenge, though I'm coming to it late, nearly at the end of the week, was to pick a social issue that you are interested in and post some relevant books on topic. They don't have to be books you've read; they can be ones you are simply interested in reading. I have chosen vegetarianism as my topic, as it is a big part of my life and has been for the past 15 years. Though it may not seem like a big deal, compared to things like human trafficking , I see many issues tied to being a vegetarian, all of which concern me. (and there are food-based reasons for child slavery) There are moral elements, the question of animal rights, of health, of environmental impact, of equitable distribution of the world's resources... so I'll point out a few books on a few of these subjects. These are some I like; there are countless others!

First up is one I have had on my TBR for a very long time, but have not sat down to systematically go through, yet. It's a look at the philosophy & ethics of vegetarianism, The Case for Vegetarianism: Philosophy for a Small Planet by John Lawrence Hill. (University Press of America, 1996) It covers different related issues in each chapter, and gives a solid philosophical ground for abstaining from meat.

And then one from a more personal viewpoint, former cattle rancher Howard Lyman's Mad Cowboy. This is a fascinating look at how the conditions in commercial cattle farming led a fourth-generation rancher to become an evangelist for the vegetarian lifestyle. This is the writer whose book shocked Oprah and caused the infamous lawsuit brought by Texas cattle ranchers.

The Bloodless Revolution: a cultural history of Vegetarianism from 1600 to modern times / Tristram Stuart -- this is a book that I recently purchased and am loving. It should properly be called a history of vegetarianism IN ENGLAND however, as it's very British. But it's great fun, full of historical anecdotes that would make good dinner table conversation, plus it ties religion and empire, fashion, and aesthetic motivations into the many reasons for eating the meatless way.

Two books which can be depended on if you're interested in going vegetarian or even vegan for your health are Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina's Becoming Vegetarian and Becoming Vegan. Both have tons of information to allay any family concerns that you're going to waste away to nothing, and to ensure that you are eating healthily and knowledgeably.

John Robbins' The Food Revolution is a good look at all of the issues you can have an effect upon simply by becoming vegetarian. As the Publishers Weekly review of this one says,

What can we do to help stop global warming, feed the hungry, prevent cruelty to animals, avoid genetically modified foods, be healthier and live longer? Eat vegetarian, Robbins argues. Noting the massive changes in the environment, food-production methods, and technology over the last two decades, he lambastes contemporary factory-farming methods and demonstrates that individual dietary choices can be both empowering and have a broader impact. Robbins, heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream empire (he rejected it to live according to his values), takes on fad diets, the meat industry, food irradiation, hormone and antibiotic use in animals, cruel animal husbandry practices, the economics of meat consumption, biotechnology and the prevalence of salmonella and E. Coli.

And just for fun, a vegetarian friendly novel which takes on the meat industry:

My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I really enjoyed this book when I first read it, as it features an American woman of Japanese descent who is hired to make a tv program featuring American meats, to air in the Japanese market. She is supposed to highlight All-American families cooking with beef, but ends up learning more and more and as a result moving farther and farther away from her instructions -- until the last family she highlights is a lesbian, vegetarian couple.


  1. I love being a vegetarian! And I think it's very important. :)

  2. I've been vegetarian for about eleven years, and I can't imagine being any other way now. :) My Year of Meats is definitely going on my TBR pile.

  3. I have gone green for sometime now. I feel healthier too!

    Child Abuse

  4. I keep reading about My Year of Meats but I always wondered if I should read it. Is it funny? Can't bear books about vegetarians with no sense of humour. ;p

  5. I'm not vegetarian, but know lots of people who are- and the topic interests me a lot as I am trying to eat healthier and care a lot about how animals are treated. I'm very interested in reading two books you've highlighted here- Mad Cowboy and My Year of Meats. Look very interesting!

  6. Eva - you're a vegetarian? ;) I thought you might like this topic.

    Chayenne - the farther away you get from meat the less it seems like food, don't you find? I hope you'll like the Ozeki book!

    Gautami - Improved health is a great benefit!
    I liked your approach to your serious topic this week.

    Dark Orpheus - actually, it's a mixed read; there's a serious sub-theme of spousal abuse running through it, but it has hopeful moments, and yes, some pretty funny ones too. I started her 2nd novel, All over Creation, (about GM foods) but haven't finished as I found it a little too earnest.

    Jeane - hope you find information of interest in Mad Cowboy; he has a great website also. Enjoy My Year of Meats, it's so worth reading!

  7. I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat a lot less meat than I used to do. All these books look very interesting, particularly Bloodless Revolution (I always like to know the history of things). We get quite a lot of TV programmes these days showing the awful conditions where animals are reared which make me think of going veggie completely.

  8. What an unusual post and a great selection of books. I was a vegetarian for nearly 20 years and have just started eating a bit of meat again. I fell off the wagon, so to speak, after a comment at a buffet by a fellow vegetarian that the dairy industry was worse than the meat industry in many ways. Reading into the subject I deceided he was right. So faced with a choice between going vegan or cutting down on dairy and introducing some meat I went with the meat. We only buy when we know know where the meat is from and how it was reared though. And 20 years of veggie cooking stands you in good stead for healthy meat free meals several days a week. I'd recommend anyone learnt some veggie cooking principles if they want to eat healthily and cheaply. your books are a great introduction to a great way of life that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

  9. I like your list. I have the Vegetarian history book but haven't read it yet. I am glad to know it is good. I have been meaning to read My Year of Meats as well. Have you read Sunshine Rider: The First Vegetarian Western by Ric Hardman? It's not exactly high qualiyt literature but it's fun.

  10. Mel, that's an interesting list of books. If you'll excuse my being forward, it also looked to me like The Bloodless Revolution in particular could make a fun science-book challenge title.

    Just thought I'd mention it.

  11. Booksplease - I know that animal treatment is one big reason I went veg in the first place; it's really appalling.

    Juxtabook - I am leaning toward veganism for the reasons you mention; I've been trying out some vegan baking which was actually pretty easy despite my reservations.

    Stefanie - I haven't read that Western! It sounds like fun.

    Jeff - Science book challenge candidate, hmmm? Good idea. I have just finished a 'real' science book which I'm working on a write-up for.

  12. I enjoyed this list as I am also in the process of decreasing our meat consumption. May I ask if you have any favorite veg. cookbooks?

  13. Tara - thanks for stopping by! I made a small list of some of my favourites recently; also, when not using recipes I often make a quick supper of something like a veg. stirfry or a soup & salad or a burrito (leftover rice, can of mixed beans, my favourite salsa - heated and served in a wrap with some yogurt or cheese added if you like)

  14. Thanks for the link! I'm going to see which of these my library has.


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