Reasons For Becoming Vegetarian

There are many, many more people choosing one variation or other of the vegetarian diet, and their numbers are growing every day. Why? The reasons for becoming a vegetarian are many, and you might find a few of them highly compelling.

The number of vegetarians in the United States is estimated at around 2.5% of the total population - a 250% increase from just eight years ago. And that's just STRICT vegetarians. There are "others" - those who only abstain from red meat, or only eat fish, or eat poultry and fish but no pork or beef. There are many, many more people choosing one variation or other of the vegetarian diet, and their numbers are growing every day. Why? Is it concerns about cholesterol? Cruelty to animals? The environment? The reasons for becoming a vegetarian are many, and you might find a few of them highly compelling.

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." - Albert Einstein

Many vegetarians site health reasons for "going meatless". Medical research has definitively linked high levels of animal-derived fats to heart disease, high cholesterol levels, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer. For many, especially those with genetic predispositions for certain diseases, this is reason enough to give up the burgers and meatloaf.

But what, you say, of man's long history as a carnivorous being? Have we not led successful, productive lives for generations (if not millennia) as meat-eating mammals? Beyond the medical statistics, and the historical precedent, there is the common sense argument that we, on the whole, no longer live the active lives our forefathers (and their forefathers) lived. Bacon and eggs may have been justified morning "fuel" for a person working a farm 12 hours a day. However, the same cannot be said for a computer engineer, or an administrative assistant who spends their day planted behind a computer screen. And an hour at the gym a few days a week will not make up for this drastic difference in lifestyle.

A healthy vegetarian diet (we're assuming you're not planning to give up bacon and eggs for a plate of donuts and pop tarts) is easier for your body to digest, more readily converted to energy, and therefore, easier to burn off. At the end of the day (literally) that means you are less likely to be left with "fuel reserves"(fat) to tote around another day.

"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian." -Paul and Linda McCartney

Even if you do not subscribe to the view that meat, in general, is bad for you, there is still another health consideration to keep in mind. Meat is an industry. A huge industry. An industry where non-organic meats (EVERYTHING which is not specifically marked "certified organic") are produced with the aid of growth hormones, antibiotics, and small, often unclean, living conditions. And if YOU are what you eat, so are THEY. Garbage in, garbage out, as the saying goes. As of yet, there has been little research as to the affects hormones, antibiotics, poor diet and stifled movement have on the nutritional value of the food produced from animals raised in this manner. However, there has been much speculation about how much of these chemicals are winding up on your plate. It's an unsavory thought - one which more and more people are reluctantly thinking about.

Pigs and cows and chickens and people are all competing for grain. - Margaret Mead

Over half the water used in the United States goes to cattle production. An estimated 307 million acres of PUBLIC land is leased for the grazing of livestock. And the amount of cattle ranching done in the U.S. has so altered the landscape, it is a leading contributor to global warming. The affect meat production has on the environment is devastating - and rarely publicized. The amount of land it takes to produce one pound of beef could be used to raise enough grain to feed a family for a month. If one gives it a little thought, one soon realizes that in order to have meat, grain must first be raised to feed the animals in order for the animals to be raised for us to eat. In effect, we've created a "middle-man" in our food chain. Instead of simply eating the grain ourselves, we first feed it to the cattle - and they eat far more of it in one year than we could in a lifetime. The simple truth is: the more meat you eat, the more harm you are doing to the environment.

"Animals are my friends"┬Žand I don't eat my friends." - George Bernard Shaw

In addition to health concerns, and environmental issues, the poor living conditions and cruel treatment of "livestock" animals raises serious ethical concerns as well. In fact, more vegetarians site a "love of animals" as the reason for their abstention from meat than reasons of health and environment combined. Indeed, no other industry has cultivated widespread, even mechanized abuse of living creatures the way the meat and poultry industry has. News of force-fed geese, and calves raised inside small metal boxes have made it difficult for any true animal lover to delight in the delicacies of fois gras or veal. But more than that, there is the basic, undeniable fact that in today's world one can survive just fine without any meat at all. Sources of protein (beans, soy products, and whole grains) are abundant in out culture - and usually less expensive than beef, pork or poultry.

What we choose to eat is a personal, important, and possibly life-changing decision - and a freedom none of us would want to lose. So, before you sit down to your next meal - be informed, and let your conscience as well as your palette, be your guide. Bon appetite!

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