Vegetarianism : For the Good of our Planet
Will Facts and Figures change your opinions?
Here we approach the issue from another perspective, examining the devastating harm caused by a meat-laden diet–not only to the animal which is killed and eaten, but also to the meat-eater himself, to humanity as a whole and to our very planet. The following presentation is based on the poster, “How to win an argument with a meat-eater,” published by Earthsave, of Felton, California, giving facts from Pulitzer Prize nominee John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America. This version details ten arguments against meat eating.
1. The Hunger Argument
The world’s massive hunger problems could be greatly alleviated by reducing or elimination meat-eating. Vast quantities of food suitable for humans are fed to livestock for meat production–wasting most of its protein in the process; in addition, the huge acreages now used as pasture for meat animals would produce much more human food if converted to grains and vegetables.
This year alone, twenty million people worldwide will die of malnutrition. One child dies of malnutrition every 2.3 seconds. One hundred million people could be adequately fed using the land freed if Americans reduced their intake of meat by a mere 10%. Eighty percent of the corn and 95% of the oats grown in the US is eaten by livestock. The percentage of protein wasted by cycling grain through livestock is calculated by experts as 90%. One acre of good farmland can produce 40,000 pounds of potatoes, or 250 pounds of beef. Fifty-six percent of all US farmland is devoted to beef production, and to produce each pound of beef requires 16 pounds of edible grain and soybeans, which could be used to feed the hungry.
2. The Environmental Argument
Many of the world’s massive environmental problems—including global warming, loss of topsoil, loss of rain forests and species extinction—could be solved by the reduction or elimination of meat-eating. The meat industry’s voracious need for pasturelands is the primary force driving the destruction of old-growth forests–which are essential to the survival of the planet. Their destruction is a major cause of global warming and of the rapidly escalating losses of topsoil and endangered-species habitat. Two hundred sixty million acres of US forestland have been cleared for meat production. An alarming 75% of all US topsoil has been lost to date,and fullly 85% of this loss is directly related to livestock raising. Another devastating result of meat-eating is the loss of plant and animal species. Each year 1,000 species disappear due to destruction of tropical rain forests for cattle grazing and other uses—driven by US demand for meat. The rate is growing yearly.
3. The Cancer Argument
Those who eat flesh are far more likely to contract cancer than those following a vegetarian diet. The risk of contracting breast cancer is 3.8 times greater for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week; 2.8 times greater for women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week; and 3.25 greater for women who eat processed butter and cheese two to four times a week as compared to once a week. The risk of fatal ovarian cancer is three times greater for women who eat eggs three or more times a week as compared with less than once a week. The risk of fatal prostate cancer is 3.6 times greater for men who consume meat, eggs, processed cheese and milk daily as compared with sparingly or not at all.
4. The Cholesterol Argument
The average cholesterol consumption of a meat-centered diet is 210 milligrams per day. The chance of dying
from heart disease if you are male and your blood cholesterol intake is 210 milligrams a day is greater than 50%. It is strange but true that US physicians are as a rule poorly educated in the single most important factor of health, namely diet and nutrition. As of 1987, of the 125 medical schools in the US, only 30 required their students to take a course in nutrition. The average nutrition training received by the average US physician during four years in school is only 2.5 hours. Thus doctors in the US are ill equipped to advise their patients in minimizing foods, such as meat, that contain excessive amounts of cholesterol and are known causes of heart attack .
Heart attack is the most common cause of death in the US, killing one person every 45 seconds. The male meat-eater’s risk of death from heart attack is 50%. The risk to men who eat no meat is only 15%. Reducing
one’s consumption of meat, processed dairy products and eggs by 10% reduces the risk of heart attack by 10%. Eliminating all of these products from one’s diet reduces the risk of heart attack by 90%.
5. The Natural Resources Argument
The world’s natural resources are being rapidly depleted as a result of meat-eating. Raising livestock for their meat is a very inefficient way of generating food. Pound for pound, far more resources must be expended
to produce meat than to produce grains, fruits and vegetables. For example, more than half of all water used for all purposes in the US is consumed in livestock production. The amount of water used in production of the average cow is sufficient to float a destroyer (a large naval ship).
While 25 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of wheat, 5,000 gallons are needed to produce a pound of California beef. That same 5,000 gallons of water can produce 200 pounds of wheat. Thirty-three percent of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed
by the US are devoted to the production of livestock, as compared with two percent to produce a complete vegetarian diet.
6. The Antibiotic Argument
Another danger of eating meat is the fact that large amounts of antibiotics are fed to livestock to control staphylococci (commonly called staph infections). The animals being raised for meat in the United
States are diseased. The livestock industry attempts to control the various diseases by feeding the animals huge quantities of antibiotics. Of all antibiotics used in the US, 55% are fed to livestock. But the diseasecausing
bacteria are rapidly becoming immune to the antibiotics, thus endangering humans who depend on these antibiotics to combat disease. The percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin, for example, has grown from 13% in 1960 to 91% in 1988. These antibiotics and/or the super-resistant bacteria they were intended to destroy remain in the meat that goes to market. The European Economic Community banned the importation of US meat because of this routine feeding of antibiotics.
7. The Mad Cow Argument
In February, 2001, Cornell University reported, “Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, has now been officially identified in a dozen European countries including the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands..
8. The Pesticide Argument
US-produced meat contains dangerously high quantities of deadly pesticides. Many people believe that the USDA protects consumers’ health through regular and thorough meat inspection. In reality, fewer than one out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical residues.A study of mothers’ milk in the US has clearly demonstrated that these chemicals are ingested by the meat-eater:
a. Ninety-nine percent of the meat-eating mothers in the study produced milk with significant levels of DDT–compared to only 8% of the vegetarian mothers’ milk. This shows that the primary source of DDT is the meat ingested by the mothers.
b. The breast milk of meat-eating mothers has 35 times more chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides than the milk of non meat-eating mothers.
c. The average breast-fed American infant contains nine times the permissible level of the pesticide dieldrin, which (though now banned in the US) continues to accumulate in the food chain and often exceeds safety guidelines in fish and seafood.
9. The Ethical Argument
Many people have become vegetarians after reading about or personally experiencing what goes on daily at any one of the thousands of slaughterhouses in the US and other countries, where animals suffer thecruel process of forced confinement, manipulation and violent death. Their pain and terror is beyond calculation. Most slaughterhouse workers are not on the job for long and have the highest turnover rateof all occupations. It also has the highest rate of on-the-job injury. In the US alone, 1.14 million animals are killed for meat every hour. The average per capita consumption of meat in the US, Canada and Australia is 200 pounds per year! The average American consumes in a 72-year lifetime approximately eleven cattle, three lambs and sheep, 23 pigs, 45 turkeys, 1,100 chickens and 862 pounds of fish!
10. The Physiological Argument
The final argument against meat-eating is that humans are physiologically not suited for a carnivorous diet. The book Food for the Spirit, Vegetarianism in the World Religions, summarizes this point of view as follows. “Many nutritionists, biologists and physiologists offer convincing evidence that humans are in fact not meant to eat flesh.…” The book gives seven facts in support of this view:
1. Physiologically, people are more akin to plant-eaters, foragers and grazers, such as monkeys, elephants and cows, than to carnivore such as dogs, tigers and leopards.
2. For example, carnivores do not sweat through their skin; body heat is controlled by rapid breathing and extrusion of the tongue. Vegetarian animals, on the other hand, have sweat pores for heat control and the elimination of impurities.
3. Carnivora have long teeth and claws for holding and killing prey; vegetarian animals have short teeth and no claws.
4. The saliva of carnivora contains no ptyalin and cannot predigest starches; that of vegetarian animals contains ptyalin for the predigestion of starches.
5. Flesh-eating animals secrete large quantities of hydrochloric acid to help dissolve bones; vegetarian animals secrete little hydrochloric acid.
6. The jaws of carnivora only open in an up and down motion; those of vegetarian animals also move sideways for additional kinds of chewing.
7. Carnivores must lap liquids, as a cat does; vegetarian animals take liquids in by suction through the teeth.
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