EarthSave began in 1988 as a pet project of John Robbins, one-time heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune. His book Diet for a New America had just been published, and he intended for the new organization to pick up where his writing left off. Just as Robbins’ book outlined an ideological connection between food activists (vegetarians/animal rights zealots) and the more “mainstream” environmentalism (what used to be known as “ecology” and “conservation”), EarthSave sits at the nexus of these two worlds.
Ex-Montana-cattle-rancher Howard Lyman is currently EarthSave’s president, and its incoming chairman is Jeffrey Armour Nelson, heir to the Armour meatpacking empire. Add Robbins to the mix, and you have a triumvirate with one common link: they came from “the other side,” and they constantly remind their followers of this (as though the fact of their conversion should grant their ideology instant gravitas and validity).
EarthSave’s web site is hosted by Jeff Nelson’s “VegSource.com” empire, and its board members overlap heavily with the animal rights activists and dispensers of questionable dietary advice that “VegSource” features daily. A few examples:
- Diet book author Dean Ornish, an EarthSave board member, claims that a completely vegan diet can reverse prostate cancer and shrink or eliminate cancerous tumors. Ornish has not published these findings, and no peer review has been conducted, but the claims are presented as fact.
- EarthSave member Alan Goldhamer co-authors a medical advice column in which he promotes fasting as a “cure” for high blood pressure. No mention is made of the fact that most physicians consider fasting a horrible idea for individuals who are underweight, pregnant, or nursing, or who suffer from fatigue, mental illness, cardiac arrhythmia, nutritional deficiencies, ulcers, or immunodeficiency problems.
- EarthSave board member Dr. Douglas Graham (his degree is in chiropractic) takes veganism one step further, insisting that only completely raw foods are truly good for you. He claims that “it is not possible for cooked foods to supply our needs for either optimum nutrition or ethical integrity.” Graham’s ethical considerations include the claim that “heat produced from cooking, and from heating water for cleaning pots pans and dishes [sic], contributes significantly to global warming.” In an unbelievable leap of logic, Graham goes on to allege that the consumption of cooked food “is linked to almost every eating disorder, many learning disabilities, and practically every disease known to man.”
Other EarthSave spokespersons have claimed specific health risks are associated with eating meat, drinking milk, and consuming caffeine.
Within EarthSave International can be found any number of snake-oil salesmen, often making a quick buck from a gullible segment of the public. A great example is Dr. John McDougall, founder of California’s “McDougall Program,” a 12-day live-in weight-loss clinic. When McDougall claimed in a recent article for EarthSave that “obesity is a American ‘epidemic’” and promoted his own expensive weight-loss solution, he took extra care to claim that dieters on high-protein alternatives like Zone, Protein Power, and Atkins diets are “risking their health.” Protein, remember, comes most frequently from meat products. McDougall demonized the competition by threatening its adherents with constipation, heart disease, mental sluggishness, cancer, and even osteoporosis (“Protein washes your bones into the toilet”). Meanwhile, the article touts McDougall’s books, his audio tapes, his web site, and (of course) his expensive clinic.
There’s big money in this sort of issue advocacy; with Jeffrey Armour Nelson at the helm, EarthSave is positioned to reap a huge windfall. As with any political movement, a bigger tent means a larger pool of potential contributors. No wonder, then, that EarthSave’s major goal so far has been to bring animal-rights fanatics and militant vegetarians into the mainstream environmentalist movement. Its central piece of propaganda is that Planet Earth will suffer dire consequences if we continue to rely on animals for our dietary fat and protein. Nonsense? Certainly. But it has galvanized disparate factions into one very malleable political force. It’s a young movement, and it practically lives on the Internet; this will make Nelson (the proprietor of www.VegSource.com) EarthSave’s golden child in coming years.