John Joseph’s Meat is for Pussies was a book that I was eager to read as soon as I heard about it.  I would be a liar if I said that I was initially interested in strictly the content.  No, I was intrigued because it was written by John Joseph, the legendary badass front man of one of the most intense and long-living hardcore punk bands—The Cro-Mags.  I have been listening to John Joseph through my headphones and speakers since I was a youngin’ and a burgeoning punk, but I was truly captivated by him when I caught the Cro-Mags live almost three years ago in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and again a year ago. What can I say,  John Joseph still has it.

When most people reach that “middle-age” limit they have either slowed down completely or lost touch with everything their former selves had a passion for.  That terrible “your life is half over” mark is a resignation of passion for most, gone is the creativity of yester-year, and in comes the slothfulness and a proclivity to buy expensive toys.  Not Joseph, he is an attestation to the fact that growing up does not necessarily mean slowing down (physically or mentally).  He demonstrates this by still touring and screaming into a microphone, still maintaining a spiritual outlook on life, still repping the veg lifestyle, and still writing.

Meat is for Pussies is exactly what the description on the front cover says it is, “A how-to guide for dudes who want to get fit, kick ass and take names.”  Joseph’s work touches upon several important aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  First off are the health-related benefits of subscribing to a plant-based diet, which he demonstrates through his life, “On any given day, I run ten miles, hit the gym, pump some weights, and kick and punch the bags for another hour…At 47, I’m still a stage diving, triathlon-loving maniac…”  While the book stresses veganism constantly, it primarily serves as a forceful reminder as to why someone should not eat meat, nor should trust the modern American diet or industrial food-system.  Joseph talks about everything from the toxins in meat, such as growth hormones, antibiotics, and the cancer causing agent diethylstilbestrol (DES), to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to the irradiation of vegetables, and the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies and major food producing corporations.

Besides dietary benefits and detriments, another aspect that made Meat is for Pussies so appealing is that it focuses on other aspects of healthy living.  Joseph is an obvious proponent of exercise and devotes much of the book to not only the positive outcomes of getting fit, but he supplies different ways to exercise, including a seven-day work out schedule.  After reading Meat is for Pussies I tried yoga for the first time, and I too became a staunch advocate (For Bostonian yoga novices: Back Bay Yoga has $5 dollar vinyasa beginner class on Saturdays, with a $3 dollar yoga mat rental fee—seriously recommend checking it out).

Joseph also heavily stresses a mental health and positive mental attitude (PMA!).  He not only talks about how eating right and exercising help battle depression, but he points out that having a healthy stress-free and anxiety-free mind is key in overall well-being and a longer lasting life:

Stress raises acidity levels, which in turn kills off strains of good bacteria that are meant to protect you.  Disease flourish in these types of environments!  We are the most stressed-out, depressed and over-medicated civilization in the history of this planet, not to mention the most materialistic.  If I have to hear any more mass marketing idiots tell me what I need to be happy, I’ll beat some sense into them with a  friggin’ organic carrot.

He plainly illustrates the point that there is far more to life than consumerism, capitalist gain, the nine-to-five routine, and sexual conquest.  Joseph explains that true happiness lies outside of all that is tangible, even though human kind is hell bent on putting all of these things on a pedestal.  Besides a rejection of materialism, Joseph also has a sense of spirituality; he talks about the spirit that dwells inside of us that makes us who we are, and how important it is that we keep it in tip-top shape, “Nothing in this material world could exist without the presence of the spirit, which is our life force.  The spirit is what gives us our individuality; it’s what attracts people to each other.  And if we choose not to embrace it, our body becomes an unattractive lump of shit.”  He ties this in with the karmic outcomes of not supporting the senseless killing of animals, and how being cruelty-free is also a spiritual venture.

What truly sets Meat is for Pussies apart is how it is written, and the audience it caters to.  One possible criticism of Joseph’s book is it has an air of machoism and meat-headedness (ironically).  Yes he uses phrases like (when referencing GMOs), “We need to wake the fuck up!  Shit, our forefathers would’ve kicked their biotech asses and sent them to an island where their balls would be eaten by cannibals” as well as “…prepare your brain cells for a no-holds-barred, New York-style beat down on real health and real nutrition.  And trust me, I’m not pulling any punches.”  But Joseph is trying to reach an audience that most other vegan books would have no effect on.

A popular American mainstream impression of vegans is that we are pussies, hippies, and scrawny leftist fanatics whose diet is incapable of providing enough protein and nutrients to look good naked, and build muscle.  Meat is for Pussies is blatant attempt to dispel this myth, and reach out to tough guys and those concerned with their appearance.  By demonstrating his hard as nails attitude, as well as providing examples of other fit vegans such as Jake Shields (MMA champion) and Rob Bigwood (top ranked arm wrestler in the U.S.), Joseph’s book becomes an exemplification that vegans can kick ass too, and being anti-cruelty is not an outlook exclusive too tie dye and hair beads.

Like it or not, one leading factor for men eating right and exercising regularly, is sex.  Joseph realizes this and uses this mode of thinking in his arguments.  One of the chapters titled “Meat Your Meat,” is all about how veganism is beneficial to one’s cardiovascular health (especially with the absence of a cholesterol-filled diet), and by subscribing to a heart-healthy way of living, you are greatly reducing the chances of developing erectile dysfunction—a condition that effects 30 million men in the United States, according to the Minnesota Health Center.  So when Joseph says, “Go meatless and become a sexual athlete with a black belt in Kama Sutra, not a chump who’s stuck in that lame-ass missionary position,” it is not meaningless conquest-driven oratory, but the most insightful way to reach a large population that thinks mostly with the lower region of their bodies.

Meat is for Pussies is a great read for anyone who is thinking about going veg, but has yet to see the real benefits.  It is also a reinforcement to vegans that there is more to being healthy than just cutting out animal products, namely exercise and the right state of mind and spirituality.  Joseph is tough, knowledgeable, and his writing is colloquial.  His book is capable of penetrating the outer calloused exterior of most males; what tough guy wants to be called a pussy?  So pick up a copy for your nearest and dearest meathead friend (but read it first!).

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  1. Joe Borress says:

    Great review. This book inspired me to explore the vegan diet and I really relate to Johns way of writing. He is so real in his descriptions and that veganism and yoga have no age limits and getting you mind and body in tune is a direct result of this lifestyle.

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