Diet for a New America (Anglais) Cassette – octobre 1990
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I looked at some of the reviews here for Diet for a New America. Almost all of the reviews are either 5 stars or 1 star. John certainly does generate rather extreme responses. So, I thought I'd take a look at the negative reviews and see what they have to say.
I read some of the reviews of other books made by those who gave Diet for a New America negative reviews to see where they are coming from. One of the negative reviewers gave a 5 star rating to a Protein Power book. So much for that reviewer's knowledge of nutrition. Doctors of both mainstream and alternative medicine virtually unanamously condemn Atkins and his clones.
Some of the reviews complain that John's presentation is too emotional. Nature isn't always so kind. Not all animals are cute little puppies to play with. Fair enough - I'm not going to go pet an aligator any time soon. But does that then mean we have the right to engage in systematic torture of animals? I'd say that is a rather extreme leap. So is the fact that John tries to tug at our hearts so bad? I guess some readers believe that we humans are merely more "protein conversion machines" that the meat industry thinks of the aninimals it tortures.
Some critics would say that John isn't qualified to talk like an expert in nutrition, the environment, animal husbandry, etc. Okay, except for one thing. People who ARE experts in these fields, such as former cattle rancher Howard Lyman (of Oprah Winfry "McLibel" fame,) nutrition experts Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, etc. all readily endorse John Robbins work.
Possibly the most controversial subject matter would be John's environmental statistics. Even many vegetarians feel that John is too one-sided on this and try to distance themselves from John for this reason. I'm not an environmental expert, so I guess I can't legitimaly argue with authority who is right. However, even taking more conservative numbers, such as the 450 gallons of water per pound of beef, (instead of John's 2,500 to 12,000 gallons per pound,) even the conservative number is many times less efficient than vegetables. And the vegetables are much more healthy too. So, even conservative numbers are damning enough.
In John's latest book, he give more information as to why he feels the conservative numbers are faulty. And I feel that John makes a credible case for his position. But in the end, it doesn't matter, the conservative numbers are bad enough!
Even so, I'd still say that some of the material in Diet for a New America is dated. If you haven't read it yet, skip it and go for The Food Revolution. Also get Reclaiming Our Health.
Oh, and as far as the video of Diet for a New America, well, I know that nobody could do justice to Diet for a New America in one hour. So perhaps I was expecting too much. But I just found the video version just way too skimpy. I wish I knew of a better video on the environmental issues, but I don't. Sadly, I really can't recommend the video.
He begins with some amazing and heart-warming stories about the courage and selflessness of animals and how much they do for us. Then he turns his focus to the way we treat the animals we use for food. It is difficult to read this part of the book, and indeed I confess that I skipped ahead. I already know about those appalling conditions having seen them on TV. Next he argues that we need less protein than the "protein empire" wants us to believe. He goes on to show how we can get all the protein our bodies require through a vegan diet. Then he argues that many cancers can be prevented with a proper diet that excludes animal products while implicating the products of the meat and poultry industries in the development of many diseases, especially the chronic diseases epidemic in the Western world. He concludes with a general manifesto in favor of an agrarian kind of heaven on earth.
I am sorry to report, as other reviews have, that there are many errors and misconceptions in the book. In a minor error on page 176, for example, Robbins writes that "wheat...is 17% protein." Actually (as the USDA chart on the next page shows) 17% of the calories from wheat are in the form of protein, which is decidedly not the same thing. That chart also shows that 49% of the calories from spinach come from protein, but this does not mean that if you ate a pound of spinach you would eat almost half a pound of protein. Spinach is not 49% protein. It has water and fiber, etc. and it doesn't have a lot of calories.
More important than the outright errors are the misrepresentations in the way Robbins sometimes presents his facts. For example on pages 266-267 he writes that instances of cervical cancer are "highest among women who consume diets high in fat, particularly animal fat." He adds that "cervical cancer in women in developing countries who began intercourse before age seventeen is two to three times higher than for those who began later." What he doesn't say (and probably didn't know) is that cervical cancer is caused by a papillomavirus and as such is a sexually transmitted disease.
He also writes about the deforestation of America. The rate he gives from 1967 to 1986 when he wrote the first edition of this book is "one acre every five seconds." (p. 361) Actually, the amount of forested lands in the United States has increased by quite a bit since 1967 and some of that increase was during the years in question.
I mention these shortcomings because I want to be fair, even though I realize that Robbins is more intent on serving his cause than being fair. I can put that aside because I believe that Robbins has done a fine public service in writing this book because it is a much-needed counterpoint to the billions of dollars worth of pro-meat and poultry industry propaganda and advertising that is constantly intruding upon our lives.
Bottom line: for all its faults this is a classic of environmentalist literature and an extraordinary book that changed the lives of untold thousands of people by persuading them to adopt a more environment-friendly diet. However I wish that there was an updated edition (instead of just a reprint of the edition of 1987) that corrects some of the errors and takes cognizance of what has happened since then.
This book is broken up into three parts. The first part deals with animals. He tells stories of animals that do amazing feats and he also speaks of the horrible things that are done to them for the sake of human consumption. He talked of them all: Cows, Pigs, Birds and Fish. You don't often read about 'fish' being mistreated, as if they were some sub-specie, but Mr. Robbins covers this with compassion.
After I was able to stop crying, I moved to Part Two. I was able to put the Kleenex away for this chapter, which talks of the health risks of eating the bi-products of animals. He goes into detail about everything you may want to ask. He talks of protein intake, fat consumption, calcium requirements, heart disease, stroke, and cancer...the list goes on and on.
He has included many graphs for the reader to compare and make up their own mind.
The last part, Part Three, deals with the poisons in our food. He talks of the pesticides that have caused illness in the past and many that are poisoning us as we breathe.
This book left no stone unturned. Everyone should read this book, not just vegetarians or people considering that route, but everyone in America. I knew quite a bit about the meat industry and about the ill health it can cause, but I learned some stuff that I hadn't known before.
I have read through the negative reviews of this book, hoping to perhaps hear the honest and researched opinions of those who are opposed to vegetarianism, but I found that the negative reviews written here were nothing but non-sense. Attacks with no real facts or backup! See, John Robbins had to know his facts and research extensively in order to write this book, so, simply saying that you don't think he is credible isn't proving anything but your own ignorance. I really do think that people find it easier (as John himself says) to just pretend that what happens to these innocent animals isn't there, whatever makes you feel good about that ground up flesh you're about to take into you body.
I have, for my entire life, known of the horrors that are commited upon the animals that humans use for their own purposes. I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Often when people get defensive with me because I'm vegetarian they will tell me that I haven't seen it with my own eyes, how would I know??? Well, I do know, and I'll tell you that the things that I have seen could be enough to at least touch even the hardest of people.
But hey, I don't know what I'm talking about because you want to somehow justify the fact that you are a cause of this butality and torture just so that you don't have to make any sacrifies in your life...
This book will do one of two things; it will either open your eyes and open your mind and become an important part of your life and that of your family and friends, or it will just be one more thing that you toss aside without considering and just call it non-sense. I hope not the later because the facts presented in this book is so much more than just "hurting" animals, it really is your health and well being, and I hope that for your own sake that you don't have to see it with you own eyes, as I growing up, in order for you to realize that your health and livlihood really does depend on, at the very least, considering these facts!!!
Please, please, please, no matter your current view on the subject, read this book if not for the animals, for yourself and your fellow human beings.