Each issue the VIP birds will endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment. In this issue we present a book that has stirred up national interest as it exposes questionable practices which affect our nation's food supply.
When Howard Lyman traveled back to his home town in Montana, he decided to look up his poker playing buddies. Of the nine, who are about his age (60), four have died from complications of heart disease or emphysema, three have heart disease, one is struggling with colon cancer, and one has survived prostate cancer. He is the only one of the group in good health, and in Mad Cowboy he attributes his physical condition to his vegetarian diet.
Lyman describes how he has shifted his thinking 180 degrees from his years as a dairy farmer, cattle rancher, and steak eater to his current focus as a vegan who is president of the International Vegetarian Union.
As a cattle rancher and feedlot operator who practiced factory farming, he gained a clear picture of how meat is produced in this country. What he describes are unsavory practices to produce an abundance of meat for the American dining table.
Lyman's description of animal intestines, heads, hooves, horns, bones, and blood, as well as dead, diseased animals ground up, cooked, dried and then used as animal feed brought him to national attention as a defendant in a law suit. Fortunately, his co-defendant was Oprah Winfrey. After hearing this description on her program, Oprah declared, "Cows are herbivores. They should not be eating other cows. It has stopped me cold from eating another hamburger."
Because of their statements on the show, Winfrey and Lyman were sued by a group of Texas cattlemen for making "slanderous" statements about cattle and beef in violation of the Texas Food Disparagement Act. As Lyman points out, the burden of proof in the case rests on the shoulders of the defendants.
Lyman reveals that thirteen states have similar food disparagement laws which are a "concerted attack on First Amendment freedoms." Because of his statements, the Food and Drug Administration instituted a ban on feeding ruminant protein to other ruminants, a move to ward off mad cow disease.
One of the most shocking chapters of the book is titled "Mad Cows and Bureaucrats." In it he details how bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease was detected in Britain because scrapie-infected sheep were ground up and fed to cows. Mad cow disease is a brain-wasting disease. The human equivalent is Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) where the brain deteriorates, develops holes, and becomes like a sponge. While this is occurring the victim becomes blind and demented and loses motor functions. Because of the highly infectious nature of CJD, scientists are even reluctant to research it. According to information presented by Lyman, the British government has finally admitted a possible link between BSE and CJD after a number of people have contracted CJD. Lyman's fear is that BSE and CJD are already on the horizon in this country. He details a shocking number (8) cases of CJD diagnosed in the northeastern corner of Texas.
Much of the book is devoted to the advantages of a vegan diet for individuals and for the world. He details the waste of resources to grow grain for animal feed. Eighty percent of the grain grown in this country is to feed animals. He cites the statistic of 16 pounds of grain needed to produce one pound of beef.
Lyman is also concerned about the chemical fertilizers and pesticides which have been dumped into the soil. He expresses alarm at the disappearance of rain forests, land now used to farm and raise cattle.
One of his major thrusts in the book is what a vegetarian diet will do for its disciples. He observes that vegetarians generally weigh twenty pound less than their carnivore friends. Since he has become a vegetarian, he has lost 130 pounds over an eight-year period. He skewers many of the fad diets like the Zone and instead proposes his own three basic rules:
Mad Cowboy is one of the most important books of this decade. It may well be to the millennium what Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was to the ecological movement of the fifties as it focused on pesticides like DDT as a problem for the entire world. Lyman is engaged in a crusade against man's desire for an anjmal-focused diet which is destroying our planet and our bodies. Hopefully, society will recognize the folly and follow his lead into a new century where people will recognize the value of a plant-based diet for their mutual health and the survival of the planet.