When former cattle rancher Howard Lyman appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996 to share his insider view of the danger of Mad Cow Disease spreading to this country, his revelations about the beef industry prompted a group of Texas cattlemen to file a lawsuit charging Lyman and the talk show host with food disparagement.
That wasn't enough to silence Howard Lyman, and in this stirring account of his journey from meat-loving cowboy to vegetarian environmental activist, he tells the whole truth about the catastrophic consequences of an animal-based diet.
Lyman is well aware of what goes into our livestock - high doses of pesticides, growth hormone, and the ground-up remains of other animals.
A fourth-generation Montana farmer, he regularly doused his cattle and soil with chemicals.
It was only when he narrowly escaped paralysis from a spinal tumour that Lyman began to question his vocation and the effect it was having on people and on the land he loved.
The questions he raised and the answers he found led him, surprisingly, to adopt a vegetarian diet. As a result, he lost 130 pounds and lowered his cholesterol by more than 150 points.
"I am a fourth-generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher. I grew up on a dairy farm in Montana, and I ran a feedlot operation there for twenty years. I know firsthand how cattle are raised and how meat is produced in this country.
Today I am president of Earth Save International, an organization promoting organic farming and the vegetarian diet.
Sure, I used to enjoy my steaks as much as the next guy. But if you knew what I know about what goes into them and what they can to do you, you'd probably be a vegetarian like me. And, believe it or not, as a pure vegetarian now who consumes no animal products at all, I can tell you these days I enjoy eating more than ever.
If you're a meat-eater in America, you have a right to know that you have something in common with most of the cows you've eaten. They've eaten meat, too.
When a cow is slaughtered, about half of it by weight is not eaten by humans: the intestines and their contents, the head, hooves, and horns, as well as bones and blood. These are dumped into giant grinders at rendering plants, as are the entire bodies of cows and other farm animals known to be diseased.
Rendering is a $2.4 billion-a-year industry, processing forty billion pounds of dead animals a year. There is simply no such thing in America as an animal too ravaged by disease, too cancerous, or too putrid to be welcomed by the all-embracing arms of the renderer.
Another staple of the renderers diet, in addition to farm animals, is euthanized pets - the six or seven million dogs and cats that are killed in animal shelters every year.
The city of Los Angeles alone, for example, sends some two hundred tons of euthanized cats and dogs to a rendering plant every month.
Added to the blend are the euthanized catch of animal control agencies, and road kill. (Road kill is not collected daily, and in the summer, the better road kill collection crews can generally smell it before they can see it.)
When this gruesome mix is ground and steam-cooked, the lighter, fatty material floating to the top gets refined for use in such products as cosmetics, lubricants, soaps, candles, and waxes.
The heavier protein material is dried and pulverized into a brown powder-about a quarter of which consists of faecal material.
The power is used as an additive to almost all pet food as well as to livestock feed. Farmers call it protein concentrates.
In 1995, five million tons of processed slaughterhouse leftovers were sold for animal feed in the United States.
I used to feed tons of the stuff to my own livestock. It never concerned me that I was feeding cattle to cattle."