The next time you meet someone who has been vegan for a long time, ask what made them go vegan. There is a high likelihood that their answer will start with, “I read this amazing book by John Robbins…”
Before Carl Lewis made vegan intriguing, Alicia Silverstone made vegan sexy and Bill Clinton made vegan “normal,” John Robbins was paving the way for millions of people to go vegan, and his journey started with his first book, Diet for a New America. Expertly weaving true stories with compelling statistics from peer-reviewed research, Robbins outlined the detrimental health effects, animal cruelty aspects and environmental effects of a meat and dairy based diet. He painted such a compelling story for why we humans shouldn’t eat meat or dairy products that he started a revolution: In the seven years following Diet for a New America’s release, beef consumption fell by 20% in the US, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association blamed the entire decline on John Robbin’s book.
The new 25th Anniversary edition has just been published, and even if you’re already vegan – even if you’ve read the first edition – it’s still a must-read. Diet for a New America is widely considered the most comprehensive, well-researched and compelling of all the vegan books available. If you have a tender heart, the animal welfare section will turn you vegan instantly. If you are logical, the health section will convince that the vegan diet is the only way to eat. If you are pragmatic, the environmental section will convince you that we simply have no other choice for the long-term survival of our planet and species than to quit raising meat and dairy for human consumption. If you’re already vegan, the book will undoubtedly teach you many new things you didn’t know about meat and dairy product’s effects on our health, the animals and the environment.
Unfortunately, the new version does not have many updated references, except in the epilogue. There is a wealth of new research – especially in the health arena – that Robbins does not draw upon, and most references are from the 1970’s and 1980’s. However, the statistics are still very relevant and extremely persuasive, so this is a minor complaint. His epilogue, to be fair, does discuss the major pieces of information that have come out in the past 25 years. In outlining the horrors of chickens, pigs and cows raised for meat, I wish that he had used this new edition to also include the horrors of the fishing industry – a topic largely undiscussed in the vegan world, except in short articles on animal welfare websites.
Given these two criticisms, Diet for a New America is still the most powerful book I have ever read on any topic, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Since the first edition was published in 1987, John Robbins has received over 60,000 letters from people who have read the book or heard him speak, describing how the book’s message has changed their life. Imagine how many millions more people were similarly influenced by the book and never took the time to write a letter! This speaks volumes to Robbin’s ability to not just write an interesting book, but to write a life-changing book.
It’s rare that we have an experience or come across information that can literally change who we are, deep down to our core. For many of us – including myself – Diet for a New America has done just that – leading us not only to a vegan diet, but to a more compassionate way of living our daily lives, with a deep sense of responsibility for our lives, other creatures, and our planet.