Vegetarianism: Why it is the Better Choice. The trend of abstaining from eating meat and other animal products is a rapidly growing one. According to David Bender in Animal Rights Opposing Viewpoints, "Today, nearly twenty million Americans are vegetarians, and many more have greatly reduced their meat consumption" (139). One meat-eating person may ponder why these non-meat eaters would deprive themselves of the wonderful taste of meat and animal products.
Another concern is over nutrition, mainly protein intake. Many meat eaters believe that a vegetarian diet does not and cannot supply the protein necessary for the body to function properly. There are many misconceptions (like the one above) and unknown facts associated with the vegetarian lifestyle. This essay will deal with the issue of nutrition and reveal the truth about how the vegetarian diet can improve one's well being by, making weigh loss easier, boosting the level of energy one feels on a day to day basis, reducing the risks of Atheseriousis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and heart disease. There are also many unknown facts associated with the vegetarian way of life. One of which is the great role vegetarians play in reducing the amount of waste in the environment.
What this statement means is that by not eating meat one is promoting the use of farmland for food for humans instead of farmland for grazing animals (this greatly reduces water usage and waste; it also cuts down on the acreage of farm land used.) Water usage will become an increasing problem if more people do not find and implement water conservation methods. According to data taken from John Robbins in Diet for a New America, if something is not done, the water in the Texas aquifers will be exhausted in less than thirty-five years (1). For reasons that will become clearer after reading this essay, vegetarianism seems to be an answer to the problem of water usage. With the increasing amount of land being used for farming to mainly feed animals used for food by us, comes increased soil erosion and leeching. Leeching is a term used to describe the process of the loss of nutrients from the soil, and the end result is sand that cannot support plant life. Vegetarians help to reduce the amount of farmlands needed to support animals.
According to Robbins, in Diet for a New America, "Since 1967, the rate of deforestation in the U.S. has been one acre every five seconds; at the present rate, the U.S. will be completely stripped of its forests in fifty years (as of 1987); at its own rate, the tropical rainforests of central America will be destroyed in forty years (as of 1987). Something drastic needs to be done to save what little forests we have left. Again, vegetarianism seems to be the answer. Most of the forestland destroyed is used for grazing land for farm animals.
If the demand for these animal products and by-products is reduced, then there will not be a need for such a rapid clearing of the forests of the world. The issue of animal waste is also a great concern to mankind. In a way, we are the cause to our own demise. The waste from the animals we use for food pollutes our water supplies and promotes the spread of disease. Becoming a vegetarian helps reduce the amount of waste in our world because of the reduction of farm animals. Along with the issue of animal waste comes the issue of energy waste.
The conversion of energy from plant to meat is very poor. Much of the energy is used by the animal and is not stored in the meat of the animal, so obviously using the plant as a source of energy is much more efficient. Along with the benefits to the environment and the health of people, a vegetarian diet also lessens the suffering that animals have to endure. It is a medically proven fact that animals do feel pain and the practices of factory farming subject the animals involved to unimaginable amounts of pain. Modern man should find it morally right to become a vegetarian.
For the reasons stated above, vegetarianism seems to be in our future. Maybe not complete vegetarianism, but more realistically a diet of little meat consumption based primarily on non-meat products. If the majority of our population reduced their consumption of meat, all the situations described above would drastically improve and the world would be a more hospitable place because of it. People have always thought of the vegetarian diet as unhealthy uneducated in the practices of vegetarians. According to David Bender in Animal Rights Opposing Viewpoints, "There is no nutritional need for humans to eat any animal products; all of our dietary needs, even as infants and children are best supplied by an animal-free diet" (139).
According to a lecture given by Bill Grimes of the University of Arizona, the body needs nine essential amino acids to be able to build the complex protein peptides and can synthesize eleven others. Essential amino acids are one that the body cannot synthesis on its own but rather must be introduced to the body. Combining various vegetable groups can easily satisfy these requirements. People in economically poor countries that cannot afford meat use this method to satisfy their amino acid needs. For example, according to Kim Johnson et al. in Biology Concepts and Connections, one example of a combination of vegetables that satisfy the amino acid requirement is the combination of beans and corn (432).
A vegetarian diet cannot only satisfy the requirements of the body, but is actually better for the body. Most meat eaters in America are overweight. According to lecture material presented by Rick Hallick of the University of Arizona, close to 45 percent of the U.S. population is overweight. If more people would take up a vegetarian diet the U.S. would be a much skinnier place. A diet based on non-meat foods is usually (almost always) low in fat and complex sugars and high in nutrients that the body needs to function efficiently. According to a new look at the food triangle presented by Hallick, the new triangle shows that fruit groups should be served three to five times a day and vegetable groups should be served four to six times a day.
The old triangle had significantly less fruits and vegetables servings and more meat and dairy servings because of political compromises with the dairy and meat industries. A vegetarian diet can also help reduce heart disease and Arteriosclerosis or more commonly known as "hardening of the arteries". A main cause of both these diseases is red meat, which contains an abundance of animal fat. This fat helps contribute to Arteriosclerosis by promoting an arthosclerotic plaque, which can form clots in the small arteries leading to a heart attack. According to the lecture of Dr. Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, "Compelling evidence indicates the importance of protective factors in fruits and vegetables". Some of this evidence is shown in Hallick's lecture when the data on heart disease is shown for the U.S. and Japan.
Note that in Japan the consumption of red meat is drastically less that that of the U.S. This data reveals that the U.S. 4.4 times Japan's heart attack rate in 1998. One of the major health concerns of most Americans today, cancer can also be significantly reduced Americans adopt a vegetarian diet. It is no wonder that cancer is a major health concern to most Americans; it is killing an intolerable amount of people in the U.S. According to Science, "The majority of the causes of cancer (such as tobacco, alcohol, animal fat, obesity, ultraviolet light) are associated with lifestyle; that is, with personal choices" (254). This means that if we cut down on our consumption of animal fat or eliminate it from our diet, we will greatly reduce our risks of cancer! Along with greatly benefiting the health of individuals on a vegetarian diet, vegetarianism also helps us preserve the environment and our resources. Much of our land resources are being wasted away in order to feed "food" animals.
According to John Robbins in Diet for a New America, "More than half of the harvested agricultural land is used to grow food for livestock" (1). .".. One can feed twenty times as many people on a pure vegetarian diet as one a meat-based diet" (1). This equates to an enormous amount of land that could be saved if more people would adopt a vegetarian life style. The world could be fed on one half the amount of land used to feed the world today! According to Robbins, "Right now 40,000 children starve to death on the planet every day" (1).
If our food production efforts were geared totally toward vegetarianism, world hunger would be a thing of the past". Food animals" also contribute to the wastage of water. According to Robbins, "Over half of the water consumed in the U.S. is used to irrigate land that grows livestock food" (1). "To produce a pound of meat takes 2,500 gallons of water, the same amount an average family uses for all combined household purposes in a month; it takes one hundred times more water to produce a pound of meat as it does to produce a pound of wheat" (1). The use of water for "food animals" is taking its toll on our water supply. Our aquifers in the U.S. are being drained faster than they can replenish themselves.
According to Robbins", At present, over thirteen trillion gallons of water are being drained from the Ogallala aquifer each year, the vast majority of which is used to produce meat; more water is taken from the Ogallala aquifer each year than is used to grow all the fruits and vegetables for the entire country; at present rates (1987), the Ogallala aquifer will be exhausted in thirty five years, making the high plains of the U.S. uninhabitable for human beings; in the last twenty years (since 1987), Texas has used up one-quarter of its entire supply of ground water, most of it to grow sorghum to feed cattle" (1). These statistics tell a grim story. If we do not change our ways soon, it may very well be too late. Another problem brought about by "food animals" is the problem of soil erosion. Nature takes a long time to build up a topsoil base that is suitable for growing crops and other plant life. Currently we are eroding away our precious topsoil by irrigation faster that it can be made.
The finding in the work by Robbins is alarming: "In the last two hundred years, America's croplands have shrunk seventy five percent, from twenty one to six inches of topsoil; four million acres of croplands are lost to erosion in the U.S. each year, an annual loss of 7,000,000,000 tons" (1). "Eighty five percent of this loss is directly related to livestock raising". Food animals" have also harmed the rainforest's of the U.S. and the world. The widely known fact that the rain forests are being destroyed rapidly is due mostly for the use of grazing land for "food animals". Robbins states, "The U.S. will be completely stripped of its forests in fifty years (as of 1987); at its own rate, the tropical rainforest's of Central America will be destroyed in forty years (as of 1987) ' (1).
An unknown amount of species is becoming extinct everyday due to the destruction of the rainforest's. Many medicines, including cures for aids may never be discovered due to the destruction. If the populations of the world would convert to vegetarianism, according to Robbins, 200 million of the 260 million acres of rain forest land would be spared. This would boost the world's oxygen supply and eliminate the worry of an oxygen deficient habitat. What about the "food animals" themselves? Well, they obviously cause harm to the environment, but how much?
According to Robbins, "One cow produces as much waste as sixteen humans" (2). "Much of this waste ends up in the nation's streams, rivers, and lakes, depleting the oxygen levels of the water and polluting the water; animal waste is high in nitrogen which can cause brain damage or death to infants" (2). The animals not only cause damage to the environment while alive, but dead animals (slaughtered ones) also pose an environmental / water problem. Robbins-"The meat industry dumps more than three times as much harmful waste in the waters than the rest of the nation's industries combined" (2).
Animals are inefficient producers and efficient energy users, while plants are efficient energy producers and are energy efficient. For the reason of energy efficiency, we should use plants instead of animals as our source of food. Robins states, "The least efficient plant food is almost ten times as energy efficient as the most efficient animal food" (when it comes to converting raw material into things that we can use as food) (2). Human beings must consider what impact our actions have on the lives of others. To limit moral consideration to humans only is no more logical or justifiable than limiting concern to white people only or to men only. Speciesism is wrong because all animals contribute to the ecosystem and are capable of suffering.
We do not need to eat animals or animal byproducts to survive. The death of literally millions of animals is not properly justified and this act of genocide needs to stop. The practices of modern "factory farming is cruel and inhumane. Since it is obvious that animals do experience pain, one would expect the process of slaughter to be as un-painful to the animal as possible. Sadly this is not the case. The act of slaughter is as gruesome as the name implies.
One may ask why such a horrible process is not covered in the media. The answer is that people do not want to know because they do not want to feel guilty for eating animals. In the slaughterhouse, all livestock endure rough handling, pain, and fear. There are laws that prohibit slaughter while the animal is conscious, but according to Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association, in Thought for Food, 'The stunning process does not always work' (134). This means that the animal is still conscious and will experience immense pain while it is being slaughtered. The slaughter is the end of a horrible life filled with nothing but misery while the animal was alive.
There is no pleasure in the animal's meager existence. For example, most of the animals live a life of close confinement. According to Laura Eyck in her essay Thought for Food, "Pigs and most veal calves are subjected to confinement so severe that they cannot even turn around" (134). The purpose for this treatment is so the animals expend as little energy (in the form of calories) as possible so that the animal gains weight substantially quicker.
The raising of other "food animals" is quite similar to the treatment that pigs and veal receive". Food animals" are often fed contaminated food, which poisons them and their meat. Dangerous heavy metals build up in manure, bones, and internal organs, such as kidneys and livers, and are then recycled back through livestock as feed. The diseased organisms that survive in animal tissue processed into feed can infect the livestock and inevitably infect us as well. When one considers the serious health risks of a meat and dairy based diet, the environmental devastation caused by animal agriculture, the huge waste of resources in a world faced with chronic human starvation, and the violence to and suffering of billions of animals the switch to vegetarianism makes perfect sense. Even if one is not willing to completely give up meat, just eating meat at less often will make a difference in ones health, and the environment.