I have been a vegetarian for about 5 years. (I still eat fish on occasion because of its health benefits). Being a vegetarian does not get brought up that often though. I am not a preacher of this way of life/food choice. People can eat what they want, it is not my place to tell people how to live their life. There is never a reason to bring up vegetarianism unless someone notices that I am not eating meat at dinner or something and then proceeds with a long list of questions, most often including “Why are you a vegetarian?” So I would like to go in depth as to why I am. I will start out simple and then get into the stats and facts that I have researched over the past few years that have stuck with me.
Before I get into the list, here is a book that I got in 2011. It was written by John Robbins, the heir to the Baskin-Robbins empire. It has everything, literally EVERYTHING there is to know about the meat industry in relation to your health, animal cruelty, and the environment. John Robbins also touches on world hunger and genetic engineering. I like that he doesn’t blame people for eating meat based on how they were raised. Instead, he investigates the industries that lie to us for more money, power, and greed. It’s just an awesome book. BUY IT AND READ IT PEOPLE.
6 (Broad) Reasons I am a Vegetarian
1. Even when I still ate meat, my favorite foods were always everything but meat. I have always loved pasta, salad, beans, fruits and veggies. The transition was extremely easy for me. So I thought, why not just take out meat entirely, it can’t be that difficult.
2. I was not raised in a hunting family. We are not heavy heavy carnivores. Meals without meat were common at the dinner table. While it may have been annoying that I didn’t eat my dad’s steak or mom’s chicken enchiladas, my parents did not really mind going out of the way to cook something else for me (at least they didn’t show it). Often times they are even open to trying new recipes that are vegetarian friendly. It is also super easy and cheap to eat meatless. People who say it is expensive to eat healthy have no idea what they are talking about. Excuses, excuses.
3. I consider myself an animal lover even though I have never had any dogs, just a couple cats when I was really young. But anyway, I DO care about animal rights and yes I have watched Food, Inc. and Meet Your Meat. I am not a crazy, loud PETA activist shouting from the rooftops, but like I said, I do love animals. I wouldn’t eat my cat or a dog, so why would I eat a pig? Not to mention the horrific conditions they are ‘raised’ under before slaughter.
4. As the years passed, I gradually became grossed out at the thought of eating meat. I think about where it comes from and how that animal is tortured and killed. Then about all the hormones that are in the meat, as well as links to disease. I always think about that little note at the bottom of a menu that warns you that raw and undercooked meat may lead to foodborne illness. I just have no desire to put anything like that in my body anymore. I don’t even eat a ton of meat alternatives because the taste of meat is just not as satifysing to me anymore.
5. Not eating meat greatly lowers your risk of heart disease and cancer because you are cutting out animal fat and a whole lot of cholesterol. You are replacing it with antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and excellent sources of protein like grains and beans. According to the CDC, heart disease is the number 1 leading cause of death in adults in the U.S. I don’t know about you, but if eating meat means I am likely to die sooner, I am not about that life.
6. Global warming is very real and meat production is a large contributor. A Prius driver who eats mainly meat is contributing more to global warming than a Hummer driver eating low on the food chain. Raising livestock for meat consumption aids in air pollution, loss of biodiversity, species extinction, climate change, water shortage, water pollution, and overall degradation of the land.
So I touched on health, animal rights, and the environment. Those are the three main reasons people choose not to eat meat. There is not really one area more than another that I lean towards. I believe in a healthy life for myself, animals, and for the Earth. Here are some other facts and statistics that are very eye opening and hopefully will make you think twice about the meat on your plate.
- Animal protein has actually been found to decrease bone health. Consumption of meat is associated with decreased bone mineral density.
- Eating more fruits and vegetables increases survival rates in women with ovarian cancer and reduces the risk of breast cancer.
- Those who eat poultry four times a week compared to those who abstain are at a 200-300% greater risk of colon cancer. Americans who are aware that eating less meat reduces colon cancer risk: 2%.
- Soy intake decreases the risk of hip fractures, breast cancer, and lung cancer.
- Blood cholesterol level of vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians is 14% lower.
- Vegetarians have only half the risk of heart disease compared to meat eaters.
- Fat in a Burger King Whopper: 40 grams. Fat in an average veggie burger: 3 grams.
- Annual medical costs in the U.S. directly linked to smoking: $65 billion; linked to meat consumption: $60-120 billion.
- Antibiotics given to people in the U.S. annually to treat disease: 3 million lbs; given to livestock annually for purposes other than treating disease: 24.6 million lbs.
- Newborn male calves born to dairy cows are chained at the neck and caged in such small spaces that they barely move at all during their short life. Their muscles often never fully develop since their neck and body can often never move. They are unable to walk, denied sufficient mother’s milk, and trucked off to auction at only a day or two old before being slaughtered for veal.
- Length of time that baby calves suckle from their mothers in a natural environment: 8 months; length of time that U.S. dairy calves are routinely taken from their mothers and transported to veal stalls: 24 hours. 90% of U.S. dairy calves are taken after 24 hours.
- More than 99% of the hens who lay the eggs eaten in the U.S. are debeaked and caged. Forced to stand on wire, they often become entangled resulting in the workers cutting off their toes and claws.
- 75% of chickens are subjected to “forced molting” in which they are starved and denied water. This shocks the hens into losing their feathers.
- Birds are being systematically bred for obesity. They suffer from congestive heart failure because their lungs and heart are not fully developed enough to support the rapid weight gain.
- Mass of breast tissue of an eight week old chicken today compared to 25 years ago: 7 times greater.
- 65 million of the 90 million pigs that are raised for meat in the U.S. are in total confinement where they never see daylight until they are trucked off for slaughter.
- 70% of pigs have pneumonia at time of slaughter.
- Pigs become so packed together that they become violent and bite one another’s tails and bodies. The industry responds by chopping off their tails and chipping their teeth.
- 90,000 cows and calves are slaughtered every 24 hours in the U.S.
- 14,000 chickens are slaughtered every minute in the U.S.
- 10 billion food animals (not including fish and other aquatic creatures) are slaughtered every year in the U.S.
- Water required to produce 1 pound of beef according to the University of California Agricultural Extension: 5,214 gallons; wheat: 25 gallons; lettuce: 23 gallons.
- In California today, it has been noted that you may save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you would by not showering for six months.
- More water is drawn from the Ogallala aquifer every year for beef production than is used to grow all the fruits and vegetables in the entire country.
- America’s grain belt produces more grain for factory farm and feedlot animal feed than bread for humans.
- The hog waste produced by a single plant in Utah is equal to the volume of human waste produced by the entire population of the state.
- Livestock waste goes into soil and then runs into the water that many people ultimately bathe in and drink. Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness, and death occur in areas where livestock farms are heavily concentrated.
- Because of animal waste pollution, in the Gulf of Mexico there is now a ‘dead zone’ of nearly 7,000 square miles that can no longer support aquatic life.
- 70% of the American west is used for grazing livestock.
- Livestock compact the soil and trample plants making it harder for soil to absorb water freely. This leads to contaminated runoff.
- Livestock impact on the soil has done more to alter the vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, power plants, freeways, and subdivisions combined.
- 55 square feet of tropical rainforest are destroyed for the production of every fast-food hamburger made from rainforest beef.
- Members of 30 different plant species, 100 different insect species and dozens of bird, mammal, and reptile species are destroyed in the production of each fast-food hamburger.
- Methane is 24 times more potent a greenhouse house than carbon dioxide. Methane’s concentration in the atmosphere is triple than what is was a century ago due to beef production.
- Livestock account for up to 20% of overall global methane emissions.
- Cattle, goats, and sheep graze half of the planet’s total land area. They, as well as pigs and poultry, eat feed grown on the the majority of the world’s cropland.
Check out my recipe for a healthy Mexican inspired vegetarian dish here!
Robbins, John. The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help save Your Life and Our World.