Good reasons for being vegetarian
There are so many good reasons for being vegetarian (health, animals, the environment) that a better question might be, “Why NOT be vegetarian?” When you can easily…
- significantly improve your health,
- dramatically reduce your environmental footprint,
- and greatly lessen the suffering of animals
…we might ask instead, “What’s stopping you?”
Of course, the decision about whether to become a vegetarian is a matter of personal choice. But we think that if more peope really knew how bad meat is (for them, the planet, and the animals), more people would make the choice to go meatless. This page is a starting point to see if this is a choice you agree with. Below are some details about the main reasons people go veg.
Improve your health
The medical evidence is clear, consistent and overwhelming. Vegetarians and vegans:
- …are far less likely to get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis.
- …are far less likely to be overweight.
- …have lots more stamina.
- …consume far less pesticides in their food.
- …have superior immune function.
The largest epidemiological study ever conducted (the China-Oxford-Cornell study) found that those eating the amount of animal foods typical for Americans have seventeen times the death rate from heart disease, and, for women, five times the rate of breast cancer, than those who get 5% or less of their protein from animal foods.
Meat contains 14 times the amount of pesticides as plant foods, since pesticides get concentrated as they move up through the food chain, and since they’re more easily stored in fatty tissues. In 1980, six years after the pesticide dieldrin was banned, the USDA destroyed two million packages of frozen turkey products contaminated with dieldrin. (And such contamination can routinely occur without detection.) In 1974, the FDA found dieldrin in 85% of all dairy products and 99.5% of the American people. The EPA discovered that the breast milk of vegetarian women contained far lower levels of pesticides than that of average Americans. A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “The highest levels of contamination in the breast milk of the vegetarians was lower than the lowest level of contamination…(in) non-vegetarian women… The mean vegetarian levels were only 1-2% as high as the average levels in the U.S.”
Prevent cruelty to animals
Nobody wants animals to suffer, but it’s easy to forget that when we eat them, that’s what we’re supporting. The easiest action a person can take to reduce animal suffering is to simply stop eating them.
Around eight billion animals are killed for food every year in the U.S. alone – a number greater than the entire human population of the panet.Each meat-eating American eats the equivalent of about 24 animals per year. What’s worse, modern agricultural methods mean that animals are raised in cramped confinement operations instead of the pastures from childhood picture books — a practice known as factory farming. Chickens are crammed into cages with no free space, and are debeaked to keep them from pecking each other to death. Animals are pumped full of various powerful drugs to kill diseases resulting from filthy living conditions, and to make them grow or produce faster than nature intended. When cows and chickens stop producing as much milk and eggs as the younger animals, they’re unceremoniously slaughtered and made into low-grade meat (fast food and pet food). For some, vegetarianism and veganism are easy ways to refuse to participate in this cruelty.
Save the Earth
Eating vegetarian saves more land, energy, and water than any other choice you can make. That’s because livestock eat several times more grain than they produce as meat. So raising livestock uses:
- several times as much land to grow the grain to feed them
- several times as much energy to harvest the grain and transport it
- several times as much water to grow the grain and to water the animals
- several times as much pesticides, etc.
Worldwide petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 11 years if the rest of the world ate like the U.S. The least energy-efficient plant food is 10 times as efficient as the most efficient meat food. A nationwide switch to a pure vegetarian diet would allow us to cut our oil imports by 60%.
Over half of the water used in the U.S. is used to grow feed for livestock. It takes 100 times as much water to produce meat than to produce wheat. The water required to produce a day’s diet for a typical American is 4,000 gallons. (It’s 1,200 for vegetarians and 300 for vegans.) Compared to a vegan diet, three days of a typical American diet requires as much water as you use for showering all year (assuming you shower every day).
U.S. Livestock produce 250,000 pounds of waste per second – 20 times as much as humans. A large feedlot produces as much waste as a large city, but without a sewage system. Animal waste washed into rivers and lakes causes increased nitrates, phosphates, ammonia, and bacteria, and decreases the oxygen content. This kills plant and animal life. The meat industry account for three times as much harmful organic waste as the rest of the industries in the U.S. combined.
It takes ten times as much land to produce food for an average American compared to a pure vegetarian. An acre of land can produce 20,000 pounds of potatoes, but only 165 pounds of beef. In the U.S., 260 million acres of forest have been destroyed for use as agricultural land to support our meat diet (over 1 acre per person). Since 1967, the rate of deforestation has been one acre every five seconds. For every acre cleared for urban development, seven acres are cleared to graze animals or grow feed for them.
Around 85% of topsoil loss is directly associated with raising livestock. The USDA says crop productivity is down 70% as a result of topsoil loss. It takes nature 500 years to build an inch of topsoil. Vegan diets make less than 5% of the demands on the soil as meat-based diets.
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