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Veg Your Bets

book cover

Billy Ray Boyd tells how and why to swear off the beef

By Sarah Phelan

What do Steve Martin, Mahatma Gandhi, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Mister Rogers have in common, besides being internationally famous? They're all confirmed vegetarians, and according to Billy Ray Boyd's thoroughly researched and highly readable For the Vegetarian in You, they're in good company: Plato, Einstein and Schweitzer didn't waste their gray matter chewing on steak, either.

Since Boyd first tossed out his frozen hamburger patties more than 30 years ago, vegetarianism has become positively mainstream. Even the kids on Nickelodeon's Salute Your Shorts say stuff like, "Are you vegetarian? I don't like to eat anything that has a face!"

And as Boyd explains, "You don't have to take on any belief system or lifestyle to become vegetarian. Quite simply, vegetarianism means living without eating fish, non-plant seafood, birds, or other animals." He presents the arguments for that choice powerfully and convincingly: "from health to ecology, from helping alleviate world hunger to being kind to animals, from personal growth to moral integrity, sweeter kisses, and better sex."

Despite the mounting body of evidence for vegetarianism, many of us hesitate to make the switch. Boyd devotes a whole chapter to the most frequently asked questions and health concerns people have when contemplating a diet free of animal products. He also deals with the pressure for protein in our Western world and includes an invaluable data bank of eight appendixes, for those seeking cookbooks, organizations, cruelty-free products and mail-order food.

For those seeking sustainable agriculture, hoping to find vegan food in institutions, worried about providing for vegetarian elders or searching for vegetarian online resources, Boyd has the leads. He points out that veganism can reduce the risk of suffering from heart disease, cancer, indigestion, high cholesterol, constipation, migraine, asthma, bronchitis, varicose veins and insomnia--to name a few animal-product-related ailments.

In the end it's hard not to be swayed by Boyd's persuasive wit and well-argued reasoning. He appeals to the health nut, the earth-saver, the political activist and the philosopher in all of us simultaneously: "While we may be more than what we eat, our personal and collective dietary choices affect our thoughts, our behavior and our self-esteem, as well as the world outside ourselves."

For the Vegetarian in You is an invitation "to embark on a journey, or to continue and expand on it, in whatever ways are most appropriate for the strong, caring person that you are."

For the Vegetarian in You, written by Billy Ray Boyd and published by Prima, is priced at $12.95.

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From the Mar. 7-13, 1996 issue of Metro

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