You thought Saddam Hussein was a threat. Or AIDS. Or maybe drugs. Hmphhh, says Harvey Diamond. You're not really talking threat until you consider . . . hamburgers.

Hamburgers - and all the other animal products we consume daily - are killing us. And not just us individually - not just our arteries and our colons, says Diamond - but us collectively, as a planet.The production, transportation, processing, storage, packaging, distribution and preparation of cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and sheep are wreaking havoc on our environment, says Diamond.

And most people, he says, don't realize it. He knows environmentalists, he says, who are willing to lie down in front of bulldozers to protect a redwood but who then go home and eat a steak. What they don't understand, he says, is that every time they eat an animal product they are not only jeopardizing their health but contributing to global warming, deforestation and pollution.

These are pretty heavy accusations, but Harvey Diamond is used to bold statements. His first book, "Fit For Life," co-authored with wife Marilyn, insisted not only that humans should eat more fruits, vegetables and grains, but that they should only eat certain combinations of those foods at certain times of day. This, and the book's insistence that dairy products are hazardous to your health, made the book controversial among mainstream nutritionists.

But the public bought the book in droves. In fact "Fit For Life" was the No. 4 best-selling non-fiction book of the last decade, and its popularity has just garnered the Diamonds a very large (the exact amount has not been disclosed, but it's a seven-figure sum) and very long (10 years with an option for 10 more) publishing deal with Doubleday.

Marilyn Diamond's latest effort is "The American Vegetarian Cookbook," released this past summer. Now, following on its heels, is a related but smaller volume by Harvey, "Your Heart, Your Planet."

The book is written in simplistic terms, Diamond admitted in an interview this week while in Salt Lake on a promotional tour. "It's not written for the converted," he explained.

The result is a sparse, sometimes patronizing book short on supporting data and full of white space (but it's on recycled paper, says Diamond). People don't want to read another tome on the environment, he reasons.

"I don't even address the cover-up," Diamond said in a Deseret News interview. "I think eight or nine years from now people will be talking about Earthgate, just like they talked about Watergate and Irangate."

The beef industry and Dairy Council are so powerful, he says, that they have kept Congress from passing food labeling laws that include animal products.

"If you take all the deaths each year from cigarettes and alcohol, and all the deaths from Vietnam and World War II, they don't add up to all the deaths each year from animals products," argues Diamond.

And then there's the threat to the Earth, he says. Among his accusations:

- "The protein we derive from beef takes at least 25 times more energy to produce than a comparable amount of protein from grain."

- "Of all vegetation produced by United States agriculture, 70 percent is consumed by livestock; 5 percent is consumed by the American people."

- The "same acres of land that will produce only 165 pounds of beef will yield 20,000 pounds of potatoes."

- "Animal products have nine times more pesticides" than fruits or vegetables.

- "The animal products industry uses more water than all other industries combined.' The growing of one pound of wheat requires 25 gallons of water; the production of one pound of meat requires 2,500.

- "For every quarter pound of beef you eat from a steer raised in Central America, 55 square feet of rain forest had to be destroyed."

- "Two hundred years ago cropland had, on the average, about 21 inches of topsoil in which to grow our food. Today, that number has dropped to six inches. We lose another inch every 20 years. . . . Eighty-five percent of our topsoil loss is directly associated with livestock production."

Diamond's solution is for all of us to eat fewer animal products.

"If, over a year's time, you have one less hamburger a week, you could potentially be saving over two-and-a-half thousand square feet of rain forest, while preventing an additional 26,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being spewed into our atmosphere."

In addition, Diamond urges us all to plant trees. For every copy of "Your Heart, Your Planet" sold at any Waldenbooks, a tree will be planted and maintained in a forest outside Yellowstone, he said.