Thursday, March 18, 2010

Author Lierre Keith Assaulted While Speaking At Book Fair

Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth (which I reviewed last week), was assaulted while on stage at a book fair, while talking about her book.

This past Saturday, March 13, Keith was presenting at the 15th Annual San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair. As she was explaining the cruelty of factory farming to the crowd and her objections to this system, three hooded thugs shouted "Go vegan!", threw hot-pepper-laced pies into Keith's face, and ran off. Nobody stopped them. Members of the audience cheered.

Keith, who has a degenerative spine disease, was unable to continue her presentation.

There is so much wrong with this. Where do I start? Three supposed vegans attack another human being, in the name of a philosophy that strives to avoid harming sentient beings? Three able-bodied people assault a disabled woman? An author at a book fair is attacked for expressing her views?

Lierre talks about it in this YouTube interview with Jimmy Moore of Livin' La Vida Low Carb.

Lots of other folks have written about it, including my friend Kelly the Kitchen Kop here.

If this attack was intended to convince people not to read Keith's book, it does not seem to have achieved its goal. From what I hear, the book's sales rank on Amazon has shot up from somewhere in the 4000s to around 500 since Saturday.


Christine Wasankari said...

It makes me sad that things have turned so militant. Heartbreaking. I hope she is ok, both mentally and physically. :-( Bless her heart. This world is really getting weird and out of hand.

Anonymous said...

Very often when people fail to thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet, the culprit is a component of the diet (wheat, or gluten, or corn, or soy) and not a lack of animal protein! Rather than adding meat to the diet, people who are experiencing ill health on a vegan diet might eliminate gluten, etc. I wish she'd tried a raw vegan (grain free) diet before returning to eating animal products.

Alex Lewin said...

Dear Anonymous,

Besides the protein, she talks about the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and vitamin B12. She felt like she was not able to get adequate amounts of these vitamins from plant sources, and that without these vitamins, she was not able to assimilate the minerals she needed. I have heard arguments on both sides of the debate, and I am persuaded by the folks who say that you need the animal products for these vitamins and minerals.

If you have any good links that you would like to share that might convince me (or anyone else) otherwise, please post them here!

Thanks for commenting--

Anonymous said...

How horrible! She handled it so well though.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes that animal products are essential to health should read Dr. Colin Campbell's fascinating book, The China Study. He conclusively links consumption of animal protein to cancer.
Another interesting book is Dying for A Hamburger, which explores the link between BSE, beef consumption, and Alzheimer's Disease.

Upon reading her book, I must conclude that Lierre Keith is woefully misinformed.
I wonder at the link between Keith, Sally Fallon, and the Weston A. Price Foundation, which serves as an industry front group to the meat and dairy industry.

Alex Lewin said...

Dear Anonymous,

It seems a little weird to discuss dietary theory in the comments section of a post about someone being attacked by thugs, but I guess it's started, so I will continue it.

Food and nutrition are tricky, because sometimes it seems like you can "prove" all sorts of things in direct contradiction with each other!

Weston A. Price searched the globe (literally) for healthy people, people with no heart disease, no diabetes, no TB, and perfect bone structure and teeth. The healthiest people he found were isolated groups whose diets included animal products. Some of these groups ate a lot of animal products, and some ate less and/or mostly ocean animals. Weston Price found no comparably healthy vegans. All of his healthy people became ill with the "modern diseases" when they came into contact with white flour and sugar. He took some pretty impressive pictures to support his findings. Meat consumption was not implicated as causing "modern diseases" in any of the 14 cases he studied.

Factory-farmed meat is another matter, and because of when he was writing, Weston Price had nothing to say about it. Factory meat undoubtedly plays a role in the disease epidemics that we are seeing today. Lierre Keith, Sally Fallon, and I would all agree with you and your sources on that point.

I would also note that "animal protein" is not the point. Weston Price found that some of his isolated groups, when faced with a surplus, fed animal muscle meats (protein) to their dogs, and kept the nutrient-dense organ meats and fats for themselves.

Fat and fat-soluble vitamins are the most important points in Weston Price's book, and in Sally Fallon's. Bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins is discussed quite precisely, with lots of footnotes and citations, in Nourishing Traditions. It's worth reading, whether or not you agree with it. Get it at the library if you don't want to pay money!

Please tell me which parts of Keith's book left you feeling that she is "woefully misinformed". If you can provide specific page numbers, sentences, etc., then we can have a meaningful discussion.

Also please tell me why you think WAPF serves as an "industry front group to the meat and dairy industry". It seems unlikely that a 501(c)3, whose books are open to the government and to the public, would be able to be such a front group without attracting the attention of the IRS. (Is the IRS in on this too?)

Finally, please consider re-reading the first part of Keith's book. I believe that the most devout vegans come to veganism as a result of profound, deeply-held beliefs about not harming other creatures. Keith poses some fascinating arguments that grains are in fact the cruelest foods. I would be very curious to hear if and how you might disagree with her on that specific point.

Unknown said...

RE fats and proteins; why is it not fine to just eat coconuts, avocados, and tree nuts? Then, if you don't think that is adequate, if you are not vegan you could add a few free range eggs each week. That is one thing I have thought of at a Hawaii retreat, where traditional foods are often key to returning health and well-being (as in the Waianae Diet). Aloha.

Alex Lewin said...


According to LK, SF, etc, the biggest potential issue with vegan diets is not proteins, and not even necessarily fats, but rather fat-soluble vitamins. Adding eggs from pastured hens is a great idea.

The eggs they sell in the store as "free range" probably don't qualify. If you can, try to find a farmer selling eggs, and ask them what their hens get to eat. Ideally, the hens would get a large part of their feed from wandering around in fields, eating whatever catches their eye (i.e., grasses, seeds, worms, bugs, etc., rather than chicken feed).

XXCE Linux said...

@Alex Lewin "Also please tell me why you think WAPF serves as an "industry front group to the meat and dairy industry". It seems unlikely that a 501(c)3, whose books are open to the government and to the public, would be able to be such a front group without attracting the attention of the IRS."

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a 501(c)3, and even though it is a huge industry front group, it has never been investigated by the IRS.

Alex Lewin said...

@XXCE Linux:

WAPF's donations do not come from the meat and dairy "industry". The industrial food companies are very afraid of organizations like WAPF that advocate for small farmers and real food. WAPF's donations come from private individuals and from small farmers. I also happen to agree with WAPF's goals.

CCF is a disaster, I agree. I would encourage you to try to get the government to open an investigation on them. (Of course I doubt it will work, since the USDA and FDA are probably quite sympathetic to their industrial-food-chain goals.)