I have been a vegetarian my entire life, not only for my own health but for the health of the world around me. For years people have been questioning why I don’t eat meat or trying to push me to change my diet to incorporate meat. This has caused me to question myself and my choices in the past, leading to research that has only further concreted my beliefs and conviction that a vegetarian or vegan diet is the healthiest for not only myself but for the earth I live on and the animals I coinhabit with.
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I have many different reasons as to why I make such a dietary choice. Others in the past have used arguments to change my mind such as the taste and the fact that the human body needs meat when that is far from the case. I am a healthy, living example that humans can live easily without meat in their diet, and will explain some reasons why I and so many others have made the effort to be more dietarily conscious about what we consume. Not only do I abstain from meat for health reasons, contrary to what others may believe, but also do I do it for morality purposes and for the wellbeing and preservation of the very earth we live on.
Vegetarianism is defined by the dictionary as, The practice of not eating meat or fish, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons, though there are actually multiple different levels or categories to vegetarianism. According to Medical News Today, Lacto-ovo-vegetarians avoid the flesh of all animals, both meat and fish when pescatarians eat fish but no meat. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products but no eggs but ovo-vegetarians consume eggs but no dairy. Vegans avoid all animal-based foods, including honey. Some people call themselves “semi-vegetarian,” but most vegetarian and vegan societies do not accept this term (Nordqvist). The form of vegetarianism can be determined by preference but often times is actually a reflection of why one made such a choice. For example, religion plays a large part for some in the choice to be vegetarian. India is home to a large part of the vegetarian community. According to EXPONet, A quarter of India’s populationHindus, Buddhists and Jainistsbelie[ve] in reincarnation and the practice of non-violence, and therefore follow a vegetarian diet. Jain monks are so compassionate towards all living beings, even the smallest of insects, they sweep them out of the way so as not to tread on them (Figus). A Krsna Conscious lifestyle is actually what originally inspired my mother to become a vegetarian, but is not the reason she or I continue to maintain such a diet. Religion may be a leading reason for many to make such a dietary choice, but the reason behind the religion’s dictation is the same as mine. We both hold a higher level of empathy or compassion for our fellow animals.
Factory farming is a prime example of the opposite of what these monks and others believe. Many people might like to argue that the factory farming and slaughter of animals is not as immoral as some think, due to the fact that animals Don’t have emotions, or Don’t think. This, however, is far from the truth. Studies have shown animals to be capable of not only simple but complex emotions as well, on top of being very intelligent. Chickens, for example, being very social creatures, have been observed to have complex pecking orders and social status. Not only have I personally witnessed it, but there’s documentation of chickens developing bonds with humans and other animals alike. This is particularly more likely if robbed of the adequate social time spent with fellow chickens and is a reflection of their need for social interaction.
It does not stop with chickens, though, each animal has shown traits that, may be less advanced than that of a human, but still reflects the traits that we so often use to define us as being of higher intellect and subsequently of greater importance. This fact, then, standing alone, should be reason enough to reconsider the quality of treatment and mass slaughter of these animals, if their not being equals is the chosen argument for the justification of their mistreatment. Cows show empathy and complex emotions. Pigs are smarter than some dogs even, showing problem-solving skills and an innate curiosity. This means that contary to some beliefs, these animals are aware of and suffer from the conditions and lack of adequate treatment that they are forced to enure in factory farms. They are often mistreated, in their life and preparing for slaughter, and this mistreatment is way too commonly disregarded by the public.
Cows, for example, when sent to the slaughterhouse, are often crammed into trailers with about 45 others, and sometimes do not always make it to their destination intact. This journey, which truly is the end of the line for these animals, is a traumatizing and miserable experience. Way too often the animals are sick or get injured during transportation. Imagine up to a 1,500-mile journey on a trailer, in 95-degree weather, packed body to body. Often times on this trip, the animals are not fed or watered. They are hungry and scared, often sick, forced to be crammed in a box with other animals, surrounded by urine and feces. Their cries for help go unanswered as they are brought away. Once they reach their destination, some are too sick or injured to leave, others are too scared. As reported by PETA, They are shocked with electric prods or dragged off with chains. Uncooperative animals are beaten, they have prods poked in their faces and up their rectums, says a former USDA inspector (Cow Transport and Slaughter). The rest referred to in the industry as downers, are dragged by their legs on ropes and chains off the trailer. Sometimes, in freezing weather, the workers need to go so far as to pry the cows from the floor or walls, as they become stuck to it with frozen feces and urine. Once They have finished unloading, the cows are then shot in the head with a captive-bolt gun to stun them. But due to the speed of the procession and the lack of properly trained employees, the method often fails and leaves the animal still receptive to pain. This means that a cow can be fully awake and responsive when their neck is slit. Mooing in pain and fear, they sometimes live long enough to see all their legs cut off, as they bleed out before finally dying.
Moving on from the ethical side of things, a vegetarian diet is not only good for the animals we coinhabit with, but for your own physical health as well. According to Medical News Today, A vegetarian diet has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, leading to a longer life expectancy (Nordqvist). Though the differences aren’t major in all cases, studies have shown that a plant based diet helps to avoid these complications from arising. According to the Harvard Health Blog, Vegetarians’ risk of developing diabetes was half that of nonvegetarians, even after taking BMI into account. The Harvard-based Women’s Health Study found a similar correlation between eating red meat (especially processed meats, such as bacon and hot dogs) and diabetes risk, after adjusting for BMI, total calorie intake, and exercise(Harvard Health Publishing). The diet alone has been shown to lower body weight since the majority of the meat produced in our factory farms is filled with steroids and other chemicals to cause the animals to grow larger, which when eaten and processed by our bodies has a secondhand effect on the human body as well.
The third compelling argument some may present as a reason for following a vegetarian diet is the environmental aspect to all this. It is commonly known that methane, which is 21 times more potent when trapping heat than carbon dioxide, is released from cows. What is less commonly known, is that livestock produces two-thirds of the worlds ammonia emissions, which is one of the leading causes in acid rain. Thats only to name a few as livestock release over 100 other polluting gasses. Taking into consideration the fact that these animals make up 60 percent of the earth’s mammal biomass, their mass farming is costing us in more way than one.
With such a massive amount of livestock covering this earth, their toll is not only what they emit, but also what they consume. As referenced in EXPOnet, According to a study by the WWF, to produce one kg of beef steak, it takes 15,500 liters of water and 70 percent of the world’s fresh water used to grow plants as fodder for livestock (Figus). Cutting down on that amount, even by a few percentages could make a great difference. It takes much more food and water to feed the animals farmed then it does to simply grow grains or other staples. For example, per 100 calories, wheat needs 55 liters of water. Rice and potatoes need 190 and 38 liters respectively (Koziol, 2017). This water waste is a matter that could be solved simply. It is not a need for meat, but a desire. Granted there are some cases where one would medically have a type of dependancy on meat, that is not the case for the general public. Even a reduction in the consumption of meat, if one did not want to or was unable to cut it out entirely, could make a dent in the mass amounts expended that go into the raisning and slaughtering of these animals.
Being vegetarian, though having many benefits, naturally still has its negatives, as all things do. One of the most common concerns is a lack of sufficient vitamins. For example, from a medical standpoint, someone practicing a lacto-vegetarian, or a vegan diet might have a small amount of naturally consumed EPA and DHA. These fatty acids come from cold water fish and are omega 3 fats. As stated in an article by Harvard Health Publishing, Our bodies can convert ALA in plant foods to EPA and DHA, but not very efficiently. Vegans can get DHA from algae supplements, which increase blood levels of DHA as well as EPA (by a process called retroversion). DHA-fortified breakfast bars and soy milk are also available (Becoming a Vegetarian). These supplements as well as many others are available to the public if they prove to be necessary. But, many find that they actually have less to worry about then they thought, in terms of needing supplements. As a second example, many might fear an iron deficiency, to state a common concern, but that is actually less common than some think. Though the iron in red meat is more easily absorbed than that which is found in fruits and vegetables, the difference is not very drastic, and can be easily compensated for with the taking of supplements or increased intake of iron-rich foods spinach, lentils, or even chocolate! Lacking in proper vitamins may be one of the most common concerns most face when considering a vegetarian diet, but with the supplements we have today, that concern can be easily overcome.
(Closing paragraph of persuasion)
Figus, Cinzia, et al. 375 Million Vegetarians Worldwide. All the Reasons for a Green
Lifestyle. EXPONet, 27 Oct. 2014. 11-18-18
Harvard Health Publishing. Becoming a Vegetarian. Harvard Health Blog,
Harvard Health Publishing, 2009, 11-18-24
Koziol, Michael. How Much Water Does Your Food Drink?
Popular Science, 17 Mar. 2017, 11-25-2018
Nordqvist, Christian. Vegetarian Diet: Benefits, Risks, and Tips. Medical NewsToday,
MediLexicon International, 10 Mar. 2017, 11-18-18
Cow Transport and Slaughter. PETA,
PETA, 24 Dec. 2018
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