You Don't Need Meat

You Don't Need Meat

by Peter Cox

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The up-to-the minute latest news about meat-eating that our government and the meat lobby does not want us to know:

--How likely is it that mad cow disease could happen here?
--What are the latest additives being added to our livestock feed?
--Why are our children being bombarded with hours of meat advertisements a day?
--How can your family gradually cut down your meat consumption?
--What do some researchers think that some Alzheimer's patients really have something else?

You Don't Need Meat was first published in the United Kingdom, where it quickly became a runaway Number 1 bestseller. Written with a charming mixture of science, humor, and ethics, this completely revised and updated edition will give you all the facts you need about the meat you eat---both from a humane perspective and as a basis for getting and maintaining a healthy body.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429972536
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2003
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Peter Cox has been a life-long campaigner for the meatless lifestyle and is a leading international expert. He lectures and appears regularly in the media, and was a guest on every leading television talk show when You Don't Need Meat was published in England. He was the first chief executive of the Vegetarian Society in England, and he co-authored the best-selling Linda McCartney's Home Cooking. He has countless followers among food writers and nutrition experts worldwide, many of whom were happy to contribute their insider knowledge to You Don't Need Meat.
Peter Cox is a leading international expert on the pros and cons of eating meat. He lectures and appears regularly in the media, and was a guest on every leading television talk show when You Don't Need Meat was published in England. He was the first chief executive of the Vegetarian Society in England, and he coauthored the bestselling Linda McCartney's Home Cooking. He has countless followers among food writers and nutrition experts worldwide, many of whom were happy to contribute their insider knowledge to You Don't Need Meat.

Read an Excerpt

You Don't Need Meat

By Peter Cox

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 Peter Cox
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7253-6



I was twelve years old before I ever heard the word "vegetarian," and when I did, I didn't like it much. I grew up in a remote farming community of the British Isles, where there was no sewage system or electricity, and the water had to be pumped by hand from the well. I pretty much believed myself to be an isolated oddity of nature because I hadn't eaten meat since the age of two, and my parents firmly believed I was going to die, for the same reason. Many endless hours were spent sitting anxiously in the doctor's office.

"Is he eating meat yet?" the doctor would inquire.

"No!" my mother nervously replied, feeling guilty that she was failing in her duty to bring up a healthy boy child.

"Well, he doesn't look too bad, for the moment," the doctor would conclude. "Better bring him back again in six weeks."

And so it went on: more trips to the doctor, the death sentence postponed by another few weeks, more anxiety and anguish from my distracted parents, no sign of any dietary compromise from their fanatical son, and all the while, the doctor's pen poised and ready to make out the death certificate: This child died from failure to eat meat.

Except, it didn't happen.

Mostly, I was in pretty good physical shape — big enough to play second row in rugby, a rather brutal English game — and although my diet was somewhat restricted (my poor mother was driven to her wit's end trying to devise meals her finicky son would eat), there were no occurrences of rickets, anemia, edema, or plague. If anything, I seemed to be somewhat healthier than other kids my age.

Then, one day, someone told me what I was. "You're a vegetarian!" he exclaimed. My first instinct was to hit him as any right-minded boy would who'd just been insulted.

"What's that?" I scowled.

"Someone who doesn't eat meat! Like you!"

The truth slowly dawned. I wasn't entirely a freak of nature, then. There were others like me. How strange. Then I learned there was something called the Vegetarian Society. I wrote to them, got their newsletter, and was horrified. I had nothing in common with these people at all, other than the fact that we both excluded certain foods from our diet. They seemed middle-aged, obsessive, absurdly self-important, and fixated on something called nut cutlets. I happily went back to being a lone vegetarian.

The name struck me then, and still does, as being disagreeable; and rather than use the "V word," I preferred to say, "I'm sorry, but I don't eat meat," whenever it was offered. Note the apology.

If you like toast, you don't call yourself a "toastarian" (or if you did, most people would rightly think you'd taken leave of your senses). Similarly, if you appreciate an occasional dry martini, you wouldn't describe yourself as a "martinarian," unless you wished to cultivate a reputation for eccentricity. So why, then, should I be labeled after something I don't eat? It makes little sense to me, and in any case, I like to think of myself as something more than a set of dietary preferences. "Meet Peter Cox, the vegetarian" is about as illogical as "Meet Peter Cox, the free-hairian" (because I don't wear hats). Such is the blight of pinning labels on people.

Actually, it gets even worse, because as you'll see later in the book, I've moved on to veganism now. Can we let that one pass, just for the moment? I'll explain all in due course. Otherwise, we'll be on this page all day.

To conclude: Everything I'd learned about my deviant way of eating during the first three decades of my life can be summed up as follows:

1. It's dangerous, almost certainly life-threatening, and should only be attempted under strict doctor's supervision.

2. It has a name. Not a very nice one.

3. Other people do it, too, but they're even weirder than me.

And so I would have continued, but one day, my life took an unexpected turn, as lives invariably do.


I'd just turned thirty, and had recently left the advertising business. It's a great business to be in when you're young, and an even better business to leave when you're not. I was toying with a few other business ideas, but nothing seemed to pass the spreadsheet stage satisfactorily. Then one day, my wife said, "The Vegetarian Society is looking for a Chief Executive."

It seemed intriguing. Despite eating a vegetarian diet virtually all my life, I knew nothing about "vegetarianism," and the prospect of being a "professional vegetarian" initially seemed hilarious. However, they were an old, established nonprofit group apparently looking to update their image, and I was someone who could do that for them. Since the staff of some two dozen people was spread between a base in Manchester, England, and another in London, the first task was to make sure everyone was singing from the same song sheet.

The main challenge, however, was much more fundamental: what, precisely, were we supposed to be doing? Were we a pressure group? An animal rights group? A social tea party? There were many widely varying views, as indeed there had been since the founding of the society one and a half centuries earlier.

The first organized vegetarian movement in the West was born in a unique time of extraordinary religious, political, and social upheaval. We tend to think of our world today as being a chaotic place, but it can't hold a candle to the events of the midnineteenth century. Consider just a few taking place at that time. In 1848 — the year after the Vegetarian Society was established — Marx and Engels produced The Communist Manifesto, and the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The horror of the Irish Famine was in full swing, killing a million or more people and generating extraordinary new levels of immigration to America. With increasing ferocity, the British Empire was struggling to retain its grip on its far-flung territories, such as India, China, and Canada, with war and revolution the inevitable backlash. In 1849, Thoreau published On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Two years earlier, the Mormons sought religious freedom and founded Salt Lake City. Charles Darwin's on the Origin of Species would offer up a scientific challenge to the religious interpretation of man's place in the world in the next decade, and in 1861, America itself would be torn apart in the Civil War that set neighbor against neighbor, and brother against brother. Although Charles Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities (published in 1859) was ostensibly set at the time of the French Revolution some seventy years earlier, its sentiments, and indeed his opening words, perfectly captured the zeitgeist of this extraordinary period:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair ...

From this fiery melting pot of great good and great evil belched forth many new movements and factions, and one of them was the Vegetarian Society. It is no coincidence that the society first took root in Manchester, England, cradle of the Industrial Revolution.

Manchester was the center of the new economy, the nineteenth century's equivalent of Silicon Valley, the most talked about and the most written about city in the Western Hemisphere. Extreme wealth and terrible poverty existed cheek by jowl, the one a consequence of the other, as the famous French social critic and writer Alexis de Tocqueville vividly describes:

A sort of black smoke covers the city. The sun seen through it is a disc without rays. Under this half-daylight 300,000 human beings are ceaselessly at work. A thousand noises disturb this damp, dark labyrinth, but they are not at all the ordinary sounds one hears in great cities. ... From this foul drain the greatest stream of human industry flows out to fertilize the whole world. From this filthy sewer pure gold flows. Here humanity attains its most complete development and its most brutish; here civilisation works its miracles, and civilized man is turned back into a savage.

So here, in Manchester — this cutting-edge city where the future was literally being forged — was where organized vegetarianism found fertile ground. It was a reform, protest, healthy-living, and religious movement all rolled into one. Yes, religious: many of the first vegetarians in Manchester were followers of the Swedish scientist, mystic, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, who saw meat eating as "the most vivid symbol of our fall from grace and the source of all evil."

Vegetarianism was therefore one of the earliest of all protest movements, and in its many elements, there could be found something for almost everyone. Its emphasis on consuming healthy, wholesome food (most manufactured foodstuffs of the time were scandalously adulterated) was a forerunner of today's consumer movement. Its denunciation of the appalling cruelties of the slaughterhouse, and endorsement of compassion and consideration to all living things, has clear parallels in today's environmental movement. Its assertion that animals — like women — might possibly have rights, brought it into direct conflict with the status quo, and has obvious political parallels today. In short, the early vegetarians of Manchester were dangerously free-thinking people. Indeed, some of them had to flee quickly across the Atlantic for their own safety, and from this grew the American vegetarian movement. Its chief proponent, Sylvester Graham, was one of the founders the American Vegetarian Convention in 1850. His immortality is assured, of course, by the flour and the crackers that still bear his name today.

The vegetarian movement acquired many and varied notable supporters, among them Gandhi, Tolstoy, and George Bernard Shaw, but the Vegetarian Society itself became something of a dying ember. It was more of a support group for its members than an active movement. That was the situation I inherited, and since there was insufficient support for a more proactive agenda, I decided I'd only be wasting my time to remain there; so I resigned.

Then something interesting happened. I'd been midway through negotiating an agreement with a publisher to put out a range of vegetarian books on behalf of the society. I phoned the publisher to say that I was leaving. "What will you do next?" he inquired. I said that I wasn't sure, but I'd probably start a business of some sort.

"Well, while you're planning that," he said, "why don't you write a book for us?"

"Sure," I replied, thinking nothing of it.

Ah, the naïveté of youth.

Aside from climbing Everest without oxygen, writing a book is possibly the most grueling torture yet devised by the human race. And a blank piece of paper (nowadays, a blank computer screen) is the most terrifying object yet created. After the first day, I went to bed early, exhausted with brain fatigue, and convinced I'd contracted a ghastly, debilitating disease. The second day, I managed to produce two hundred words. Then I stopped, because I'd said everything I could think of. That's what working in advertising does to you.

Then it came to me: research! That's what writers did, wasn't it? I clearly needed to do some research. So I went to a medical library, down a gloomy and far-flung corridor of a musty Victorian teaching hospital. It felt like a time trip into another era.

Big surprise.

I didn't expect to find much, if anything, and in truth I didn't even know what I was looking for. But I was desperate, in the way that authors and condemned men grow desperate when their time is running out. What I found was astonishing.

Going back to 1978, I unearthed an amazing piece of research (which I'll get to after a short digression) that was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and authored by Dr. Roland L. Phillips, one of America's most respected epidemiologists. I had to check that word when I first encountered it. "Epidemiology" is defined as "the study of the relationships of the various factors determining the frequency and distribution of diseases in a human community." To put it more simply, epidemiology is scientific detective-work.

The easiest way of comparing the health of meat eaters to vegetarians is just to watch them over a long period of time, and see who dies of what. Basically, it's not too difficult to do, although obviously it can takes years before you start to see any results. From the scientist's point of view, the main danger is that you'll die before the experiment has finished.

In some ways, epidemiology is a seriously overlooked discipline. It isn't as glamorous as the "wet" sciences, which make headlines with the latest high-tech brain transplant or potential cure for cancer. But because it concentrates on studying the way things actually are in the real world, it is capable of giving us extremely relevant insights into health and disease. You're going to see the results of some epidemiological studies now, and while you are considering them, please remember that the knowledge these studies give us has been obtained at a high cost — many millions of people have died to bring us the benefit of these findings.

Roland Phillips and his team were very interested in a subgroup of the American population called Seventh-Day Adventists. This group was particularly fascinating because their church advocates a very different diet and lifestyle than the typical meat-based American one. So the first thing Dr. Phillips did was to locate a large number of Seventh-Day Adventists. We're not talking about a few dozen, or even a few hundred people here. Dr. Phillips's sample size was massive — 25,000 people, all of them residents of California. Obviously, the more people you study, the less likely it is that a few freak results are going to skew the analysis. In this case, the huge number of people involved makes the study very reliable, indeed.

Then the members of Dr. Phillips's team just waited. Every year, for six years, they would contact each one of those people, just to see if he or she was still alive. If the person had died, a death certificate was obtained, and the underlying cause of death was determined. Patience and tact are two key qualities for a good epidemiologist! At the end of the six-year period, the team had some highly significant results.

Compared to the average, meat-eating, Californian population, the risk of dying from coronary heart disease among Adventists was far, far lower. For every 100 ordinary Californians who died from heart disease, only 26 Adventists males had died — that's about one-quarter the risk. Among females, the risk was one-third. You can see this illustrated in Figure 1.1.

This is very forceful evidence. It isn't theoretical, or hypothetical, or a scientist's opinion or some other piece of cunning public relations. It is a straightforward, nonarguable, nonnegotiable fact. It is, quite simply, what happened. Counting dead bodies is pretty convincing, even for the most hardened skeptics.

Now the next question, of course, is why? Well, one reason must be the fact that most Seventh-Day Adventists do not smoke. "OK," say the skeptics, "it's nothing to do with eating meat, it simply proves that smoking isn't healthy. And we knew that already!" Unfortunately for the skeptics, that explanation doesn't hold up. You see, Dr. Phillips and his team had considered possibilities such as that, as, indeed, good epidemiologists should always do. So they next compared deaths from heart disease among Seventh-Day Adventists to deaths from heart disease among a representative group of nonsmokers, as studied by the American Cancer Society. Clearly, if Adventists were healthier purely because they didn't smoke, then deaths rates in these two groups should be the same.

But they weren't — not by a long shot. The cold figures showed that Adventists had only half the risk of dying from heart disease, when compared to nonsmokers (actually, people identified by the American Cancer Society as "never having smoked"). So there was clearly something else very special about the Adventist lifestyle.

What could it be? Perhaps people with religious faith die less often from heart disease? Perhaps they have less stress in their lives? Perhaps they secretly take a magic potion that protects them? A determined opponent could throw up any number of possibilities to explain away these findings.

And that's where the sheer good science of Dr. Phillips's research really paid dividends. He thought that people might raise all kinds of possible explanations, such as these, and he accounted for them. Dr. Phillips realized that although the Adventist church advocated the vegetarian lifestyle, it wasn't compulsory. Some Adventists still ate meat. So he included this aspect in his research. He found that about 20 percent of them ate meat four or more times a week, about 35 percent ate it between one and three times a week, and the remaining 45 percent never ate it at all. To a bright mind, these facts created a unique scientific opportunity.


Excerpted from You Don't Need Meat by Peter Cox. Copyright © 2002 Peter Cox. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Linda McCartney
A Note on Meanings

1. Everything You're Not Supposed to Know
2. Apocalypse Cow!
3. Pig Tales
4. The Manual of Vegetarian Health
5. How to Go Vegetarian
6. Your Questions Answered


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