"The Cattle Rancher Who Gave Up Eating The Ranch"
Charleston Gazette Online, March 15, 2000, by Bob Schwarz, Staff Writer

"Before he went vegetarian, Howard Lyman was a fourth-generation Montana cattle rancher. And before that he was one of America's first 300-pound football players at Montana State University.

When Lyman stopped playing football, he continued eating as if he were still sitting at the training table. Over the years, his weight soared to 380 pounds, and his blood pressure went so high he suffered nosebleeds over his hamburger, pork-and-beans, potato salad lunches.

In 1983, he and his wife sold their ranch, where they had ranged 1,000 cattle and confined another 6,000 in feedlots. On their 12,000 acres of cropland, they had raised wheat for market, and barley, oats, alfalfa and grass for the livestock.

He became a vegetarian in 1990, by which time he had sold his ranch and moved his family to Washington, D.C., where he lobbied for a farm group.

"Being from Montana, I'd rather get caught stealing a horse than admit I was a vegetarian," he says. "So at first I didn't tell anyone."

He lost 15 pounds that first year, then went vegan, giving up eggs and dairy products, and over the next two years lost another 115.

A few years ago, he went to his 40th high school reunion. "When I walked through the door, my classmates were walking with canes, crutches and walkers." They looked 70 pounds overweight. "And they asked me whether I'd been sick."

Today, at 61, Lyman stands 6-1, weighs 239 and walks three miles a day. His blood pressure is 110 over 70, his cholesterol count 136. "I found a bigger change in the way I felt when I went from vegetarian to vegan than when I went from carnivore to vegetarian."

He has become a national spokesman for vegetarian eating. Like television personality Mary Tyler Moore, radio top 40 countdown host Casey Kasem, four-time Olympic discus champ Al Oerter and retired Buffalo Bills football coach Marv Levy, he vocally supports National Meat-Out Day, set for March 20 this year.

Lyman's wife of 32 years is also a vegan, and they divide the cooking chores evenly. On a recent morning, he breakfasted on a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and jelly and a bowl of oatmeal with sliced apples and raisins. He expected to lunch on bean burritos with lettuce, tomato and onions but no cheese. Lyman has achieved a measure of fame as author of the book "Mad Cowboy," a behind-the scenes look at the dark side of raising beef for profit, and the impact of the beef cattle business on the environment, health and ethics.

During a guest appearance on Oprah Winfrey, he talked about the then-prevalent practice of feeding ground-up parts of dead cattle to other cattle, which are vegetarian by nature. The Department of Agriculture has since banned that practice, but blood from cattle and ground-up parts of other dead animals continues to go into cattle feed.

In what became known as the veggie libel suit, the National Cattlemen's Association sued Lyman, Winfrey and the producers of the show. The cattlemen lost in a Texas court, and last month a federal appeals court threw out the case, ruling that Lyman's statements were based on fact and therefore non-actionable in a court of law.

A group of Texas ranchers have individually filed suit, and Lyman is waiting to see whether a court will allow those suits to proceed.

"This is not about food disparagement," Lyman said over the phone from northern Virginia. "It's about the golden rule. People think if they have enough gold, they can make the rules."