Have a strong belief in karmic destiny? Then a new book may convince you to go vegetarian. Called "The Compassionate Diet," this slim volume urges people to consider vegetarian diet — lest they accrue "heavy karmic penalties."
I picked up "The Compassionate Diet" because it's written by Arran Stephens, co-founder of Nature's Path Organic Foods — a company I adore. As a former vegetarian turned ethical omnivore who eats about 95 percent vegan, I thought perhaps this book might convince me to return to vegetarianism or even try veganism, and opened it with an open mind.
Alas, "The Compassionate Diet" is heavily inspired by Arran's spiritual beliefs, which are highly unconvincing to an atheist like me. Stephens kicks off the book by pushing for lacto-vegetarianism, which he clearly believes to be the best diet. Eating dairy is just fine, but in his opinion, ovo-vegetarianism is a contradiction in terms. How so? Well, his best argument is a quote from a "poet-saint" called Sant Darshan Singh Ji Maharaj, who argues that even infertile eggs "represent a form of life which cannot fulfill itself" and eating them "stupefies the mind and enflames the passions." That sounds ... scientific!
To attract readers to his version of vegetarianism, the author spends a big chunk of his book naming famous people who happened to be vegetarians — as proof that the choice didn't hold them back in their field. (As you may have guessed, Hitler does not nab a mention in his roster of star vegetarians.) He also devotes a big chunk of the book to linking various religions to vegetarianism, including making a case for why Jesus was really a vegetarian — which also didn't do much to convince a nonbeliever like me.
When I read Arran's argument that if people get sick on a vegetarian diet, they shouldn't blame the diet but know the illness was caused by other reasons like "karmic destiny," I actually laughed out loud. His suggestion for avoiding B12 deficiencies on a vegetarian or vegan diet? Eat processed foods manufactured by companies with B12 artificially added in!
Of course, I still agreed with him on a lot of issues — from the evils of factory farming to the health problems associated with meat-heavy diets. Those are facts backed up by many studies by environmentalists and health professionals. But as with many pro-veg books, he extrapolates from the fact that a diet of mostly plants makes for better health and environment to argue that a diet with no meat (and eggs) is the best choice. He big-ups organic farming, but stays mum on how organic livestock often takes a central role in keeping farms sustainable.
As you can tell by now, I wasn't moved by "The Compassionate Diet." Still, the book managed to nab jacket quotes from eco-luminaries like Jane Goodall, Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, and "Diet For a New America" author John Robbins. Want to give "The Compassionate Diet" a read yourself? The book is available now for $17.99.