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Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat




"Howard Lyman, a straight-shooting, no-nonsense Montanan with uncommon integrity and courage, has a dynamite story to tell. Read in this startling book why this son of the ranchlands won't be bullied by the beef establishment anymore...and why you shouldn't be either."

>>Jim Hightower, author of "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos"

"Howard Lyman's personal odyssey from cowboy and cattlerancher to animal rights activist, environmentalist and vegetarian is an inspiring chronicle of the life and times of an extraordinary human being -- an individual who risked everything, including giving up his own past, to help create a more humane and civilized future. Who better to tell the story of the American cattle culture than a man baptized in the beef mystique and now it's chief critic."

>>Jeremy Rifkin, author of "Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture"

"I can honestly say that there is not a man on this planet I respect more than Howard Lyman. I cannot speak highly enough of the man, his work, or his book. MAD COWBOY is his story, and it is truly one of the most important ones of this century. Buy ten copies, give them to people you love. This is the real thing."

>>John Robbins, author of "Diet for a New America," "Food Revolution." Founder of EarthSave

"Howard Lyman is fighting not only for our health but our nation's sanity as well. He challenges not only mad cows but a mad system that gives us the dead wrong answer when we ask: 'What's for dinner?'"

>>Studs Terkel, author of "Working"

LINKS to Online Reviews:



SATYA MAGAZINE: "If you've never heard of Howard Lyman, I don't blame you. He was the man who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in April 1996 and told a shocked audience that it was common practice in the United States to feed ground-up cows back to cows. He and Oprah were subsequently sued under Texas's "Veggie Libel" law by a group of Texas cattlemen. Because the judge slapped a gag rule on all concerned, neither Oprah nor Lyman could say anything during the trial. But a funny thing happened. While Oprah was exhaustively pictured and named, no one pictured Lyman, and few even mentioned his name. He was merely "a vegetarian activist" or "anti-meat activist." To conspiracy theorists like me, it confirmed that the mainstream media--terrified of being sued under the very law they were covering--wanted to distance themselves from anyone who might be an authoritative voice for food safety.

Authority is something Howard Lyman has in spades. For Lyman--the "vegetarian activist"--is no soft-handed, squeamish aesthete whose idea of rural life is a petting zoo. He happens to have been a fourth-generation farmer and feedlot operator in Montana, who castrated calves at age 10, and owned a multi-million dollar agribusiness, with ten thousand acres and seven thousand head of cattle. After a life-saving operation on a tumor in his lower back and a painful convalescence during which he was forced to re-examine his life, he realized both he and his business had to change. He had turned the rich soil from the organic dairy farm he had inherited from his parents into something resembling asbestos. He was, by his own account, "a no-good SOB" with no compassion for his workers, his land, or the animals he killed. After a few years, he realized that the kind of farming he had done was not only unsustainable for life on the planet in general but for his own in particular.

One day in the summer of 1990, when he was working as a farm lobbyist, the revelation came to him. He thought about the decline of the family farm, how the Department of Agriculture protects agribusiness rather than consumers; how cattle culture was destroying the rainforest and was responsible for water resource diminishment, topsoil loss, and polluted rivers. He looked at his own body: he weighed 350 pounds, his cholesterol level was over 300, and his blood pressure was "off the charts." There and then, he became a vegetarian.

Eight years later, he is now 220 pounds, with a cholesterol level of 140, and normal blood pressure, and the only diet he's been on is a vegan one. Having met him, however, I can tell you that he still has the strong grip and straight talk of a farmer, and Mad Cowboy accurately reflects the man. It has no time for fancy philosophical footwork about animal rights: "Having raised for slaughter an untold number of cattle myself," Lyman writes, "I wouldn't presume to tell anyone whether it's inherently wrong to kill an animal for food." What he does say, instead, is that all ethical reasoning about anything depends on having a planet to live on. The kinds of practices he analyzes in his chapters on Mad Cow disease, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), and cattle culture in America and around the world are causing humans misery and the planet untold destruction. It is depressing reading--the shortsighted greed of ranchers, governments, speculators and others are feeding a public misinformed about the true effects of their high-fat, highly resource-inefficient, meat-and-dairy-based diet.

Lyman saves his most withering comments--a highly entertaining mixture of sarcasm, litanies of facts, and "aw gee shucks!" plain speaking--for the Zone, Atkins, and Scarsdale diets, which offer placebos hidden behind fancy polysyllabic science, high animal protein content, and cozy nostrums, and do not work. Unsurprisingly, he advocates the Ornish, Barnard, McDougall, and Pritikin diets, which are low in fat and high in fiber, get the majority of their calories from carbohydrates rather than protein, and are mainly or completely vegan.

The final chapter of Mad Cowboy sees Lyman returning to Montana, which, in all the many thousands of miles he travels each year promoting vegetarianism, he had not visited since becoming a vegetarian activist. He had feared he would find only devastation, and he was right. Family farming in Montana--as it is in the rest of North America--is dead or dying, killed by the sort of chemically intensive agribusiness he himself had developed against his father's advice 30 years ago. Also dead were four of the nine men he used to play poker with. Three had died of heart disease, one of emphysema. Of the remaining five, three had heart disease, one had colon cancer, and another had survived prostate cancer. All the remaining men--as patriotic and American as apple pie--wouldn't talk about it in public, but in private wanted to ask Lyman one thing: how to become a vegetarian.

After Oprah Winfrey's 1996 show with Howard Lyman, the meat and dairy industry threatened to pull $600,000 of advertising if she didn't allow them another show to present their case, even though there had been someone from the meat industry and the USDA on stage with Lyman that day. Neither the government nor the mainstream media--both of which are in the pockets of the publicly subsidized meat and dairy industries and which use our tax dollars to deforest, desertify, pollute, and trample our ecosystems while clogging our arteries and unnecessarily filling our emergency wards--want anyone to think that Howard Lyman is anything more than a cowboy with his own mad vegetarian disease.

I predict that mainstream newspapers, television, and radio will greet this informative, passionate, and thoroughly readable book with the same deafening silence that they greet anything that threatens their revenue or unbalances the status quo. I hope I'm wrong. But just in case I'm not, I would recommend that, right now, you go and buy Mad Cowboy and give it to a friend who thinks all vegetarians are soft-hearted bunnyhuggers. They're in for one big, and delightful, surprise." (from SATYA MAGAZINE)

REVIEWED BY DAVE BOWMAN, THE SEATTLE TIMES: "The cultivation and consumption of meat by human beings is insanity.

A heretical statement? Of course, in a nation whose culinary psyche has been molded in large part by ballpark franks, backyard burgers and stuffed dead birds in late November.

But then, tweaking the orthodoxy of America's flesh fetish is the intent of Howard F. Lyman's provocative new book, which is a stunning example of a true insider -- in this case, a fourth-generation Montana cattle rancher -- turning the tables on a bloated industry he once embraced.

"Suddenly the circle came together for me ... We had been culturally indoctrinated to believe (meat eating) to be not a mistake at all, but rather a normal and healthy habit," Lyman confesses. "But this mistake was killing us as individuals just as it was destroying our land and our forests and our rivers. We were eating dead animals, and it wasn't working ... And I became, right then and there, something I never dreamed I'd become: a vegetarian."

In no-nonsense style, he chips away at the meat monolith: the loss of topsoil from cattle grazing, the spread of "mad cow" disease, the clearing of rainforests for ranch land, the use of pesticides, hormones and ground-up animals in the raising of livestock. Aside from the ethical and ecological ramifications is Lyman's own remarkable physical transformation: On a plant-based diet, he shed 130 pounds and lowered his cholesterol by more than 150 points.

Digest the facts in "Mad Cowboy," and you may never look at prime rib the same way again."

SIERRA MAGAZINE, Jan/Feb 1999, pg.108: "As he lay sleepless in a hospital bed the night before an operation to remove a spinal tumor, unsure if he'd ever walk again, Montana cattle rancher Howard Lyman thought about his family and the soil, "the magnetic feel of the cool, dark, loamy, worm-laden soil in my hands." That was the land he had loved as a boy on his family's organic farm and cattle ranch, but the tons of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers he had dumped on it for two decades had rendered it lifeless. Lyman resolved then and there to dedicare himself to restoring the land.

MAD COWBOY portrays how this epiphany transformed him from a meat-loving rancher and feedlot operator who "never met a chemical I didn't like" to a crusading vegetarian and food-safety activist. It was his warning about the risk of "mad cow" disease on Oprah Winfrey that provoked some Texas cattlemen to file a notorious $10 million lawsuit against him and Winfrey. (A Texas jury found the two innocent of disparaging beef.) Lyman continues, with characteristic candor, to spread the message: "Meat kills," he writes. "It is far and away the number one cause of death and disease in America." Drawing on scores of scientific studies, he blames animal-based diets for upping the risks of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. He also blasts policy makers who favor chemically intensive factory farms over organic ones. And, Lyman reminds us, cattle severely damaged the more than 300 million acres of public lands that they monopolize in the West.

"Wherever the onslaught of ranching is felt, forrest is lost, native flaura and fauna face extinction, streams and rivers are polluted, soil erosion worsens, topsoil blows off in the wind or runs off overgrazing hills, dust storms arise, and Nature plots her revenge in the form of desert."

While this blanket indictment of ranching is simplistic--grazing can be managed without devastating the land--his basic arguments are well-supported. MAD COWBOY reminds us that each meal we eat offers us a chance to help conserve dwindling resources in an overpopulated world." --Dan Ferber