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Why I’m veggie:
1) Cruelty to animals
Most of today’s animals on factory farms are treated horribly- they are crammed into sheds, small wire and gestation crates, feedlots where they can’t even turn around, and many other types of cages. They are deprived of exercise so that all their bodies’ energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk. Companies do this, to save money- cages that are comfortable for animals are expensive. Many animals will not even see the outside until they are loaded up and taken to the slaughter house. Not only that, but many are forced to consume hormones so that they will be more meaty and to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. Many are genetically altered to grow faster or to produce much more milk or eggs than they would naturally. Many animals become crippled under their own weight and die within inches of water and food. They are also subject to neglect, mutilation, electrocution, genetic manipulation, and drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, not to mention that they are transported through all weather extremes, and are subject gruesome, violent, and painful slaughter. These animals have no legal protection from this- the companies employing these methods cannot be punished since there are no laws against it (as of yet).
2) Health reasons- for myself, the environment, and the world.
Consuming a well-planned vegetarian diets provides me with all the nutrients that I need, minus all the nasty saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products, that can cause higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Not only that, but vegetarians are less likely to be obese than meat-eaters, because we cut out so much “bad” fat, so hey, it’s even better! The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has also been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and male impotence (but I don’t have to worry about that). Scientists have also found that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than their meat-eating friends, and, on average, live six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters. Studies have shown that vegetarian kids grow taller (DAD!!!), have higher IQs than their classmates, and they are at a reduced risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases in the long run. Studies have shown that even older people who switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet can prevent and even reverse many chronic ailments.
For the enviro, raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we (humans) do. Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, agree with that statement. Growing food for the meat industry’s animals requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water and even contributes to animal suffering.Vast tracts of land are needed to grow crops to feed the billions of animals we raise for food each year. Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., nearly 80% is used in some way to raise animals—that’s roughly half of the total land mass of the U.S. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals. The U.S. certainly isn’t alone in its misuse of land for animal agriculture. As the world’s appetite for meat increases, countries across the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land to make more room for animals and the crops to feed them. From tropical rain forests in Brazil to ancient pine forests in China, entire ecosystems are being destroyed to make room for meat. In the United States and around the world, overgrazing leads to the extinction of indigenous plant and animal species, soil erosion, and eventually desertification that renders once-fertile land barren. While factory farms are ruining our land, the commercial fishing industry is pushing entire oceanic ecosystems to the brink of collapse. Commercial fishing boats indiscriminately pull as many fish as they can out of the sea, leaving ecological devastation and the bodies of nontarget animals in their wake. Fishing methods like bottom trawling and long-lining have emptied millions of miles of ocean and pushed some marine species to the brink of extinction. The overuse of resources, unchecked water and air pollution, soil erosion, and total disregard for other life forms is wreaking havoc on Earth!
Not only is the meat industry happily destroying our environment, but the slaughterhouse workers are being completely ignored. They have “the most dangerous factory job in America.” The industry has no (and doesn’t want any) regulation for the working conditions it’s employees endure. Regulations such as slowing down slaughter lines and supplying workers with appropriate safety gear, and insurance is totally out of the question to them because these changes would cut into companies’ bottom lines. These companies are working hard to prevent any type of regulation. Between 2000 and 2005, agribusinesses funneled more than $140 million to politicians, who promised to ensured that laws that might protect consumers, animals, and the environment (but might cost big companies money) did not pass. Chronic sickness, brain damage, poisoned waterways, elevated cancer rates, and even death, plague the communities surrounding animal farms, while the government does nothing to protect it’s citizens or regulate the industry. The unfortunate truth is that the federal government does very little to protect human health, animal welfare, and our environment from the factory-farming industry’s negligence. Not only that, but the meat industry is contributing to world hunger. Our meat-based diet is partly to blame, because the land, water, and other resources that could be used to grow food for human beings are being used to grow crops for farmed animals instead. According to a recent report by Compassion in World Framing, “[c]rops that could be used to feed the hungry are instead being used to fatten animals raised for food.” In fact, it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh. Because the industrial world is exporting grain to developing countries and importing the meat that is produced with it, farmers who are trying to feed themselves are being driven off their land. Their efficient, plant-based agricultural model is being replaced with intensive livestock rearing, which also pollutes the air and water and utterly destroys once-fertile land. See all the problems meat causes!
Here is a list of questions/statements I’ve heard/been asked frequently, with answers:
“But God made animals for us to eat—we have ‘dominion’ over them”
If you are religious, and you find yourself asking this question, just think about it. “Dominion” doesn’t mean “domination and exploitation” does it? All the world’s prominent religions teach the importance of both compassion and mercy. The choice to eat meat, dairy products, and eggs is a violent one—it supports abuse. Even if religious beliefs allow people to eat these products, they certainly don’t require them to do so. Aside from the environmental/human consequences of eating animals, which are reason enough for faith-based people to adopt a vegan/veggie diet, God created animals with needs, desires, (which are usually denied) and a well-developed capacity for pain, which they certainly experience when they’re in a factory-farm setting.
“I didn’t kill the animal!”
Maybe you didn’t personally kill the animal, but that’s arguably worse because you’re distancing yourself from the suffering for which you’re responsible. Basically, you’re in denial about having any fault in the matter whatsoever. Whenever you purchase meat, you pay to have the abuse and the killing done for you. You’re supporting the killing.
“Don’t humans need to eat meat to stay healthy?”
The American Dietetic Association and the World Health Organization, among other groups, point out that vegan/veggie diets provide everything we need and that, in fact, they cut out a lot of the stuff that’s horrible for us. Thus, vegans/veggies are usually healthier than people who consume foods derived from animals. Research has shown that the risk of developing heart disease among meat-eaters is 50 percent higher than is the risk for vegetarians. Also, vegetarians have only 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. The consumption of meat and dairy products has been conclusively linked with diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, clogged arteries, obesity, asthma, and impotence. Scientists have also found that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than their meat-eating friends, so they are less susceptible to everyday illnesses like the flu.
“Don’t vegetarians have difficulty getting enough protein?”
Protein is found in abundance in plant foods, and scientific studies consistently show that vegetarians get plenty of protein. Great vegetarian sources of protein include legumes and foods made from them (e.g., beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, peanut butter, tofu [yummy!!], tempeh, soy milk, and soy-based “meats”, nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast, and whole grains). It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together in order to get their full protein value, but research has shown that this is not the case; a varied diet of nutritious plant foods provides all the protein that you need, plus lots of health-boosting vitamins and minerals. Unlike animal protein, plant-based protein sources usually also contain healthy fiber and complex carbohydrates. Animal products are often high in artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat, and consumption of animal protein has been linked to some types of cancer.
I thought this was very intersting:
“Eating meat is natural—it’s been going on for thousands of years. Our bodies are designed that way.”
Dr. Milton Mills, in his essay on human physiology, “A Comparative Anatomy of Eating,” explains that animals who eat meat have approximately 19 physical characteristics that humans do not have. Humans have to kill the bacteria in meat by cooking it before they can consume it—this means that humans are the only species that has to cook meat so eating it won’t be fatal. Eating even cooked meat is hazardous to our health in the long term, though, because our bodies aren’t designed to digest it. The consumption of cooked meat contributes to heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems. Read more about the fact that humans are not designed to eat meat. PLEASE, see the next question for more info on this.
“Animals kill other animals for food, so why shouldn’t we?”
Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory is an accurate description of “nature’s law.” But the animals who kill other animals for food do so because they have no choice in the matter. They would starve to death otherwise. However, we do have a choice. We can hold ourselves to a higher standard in our interactions with each other and with the animals we love and protect—animals like dogs and cats. We do not need meat to survive!
“What’s wrong with eating ‘free range’ eggs and ‘organic’ meat?”
Whether you’re talking about “free range”/”organic” or “conventional” meat, dairy products, and eggs, the health and environmental consequences of using animals for food are the same. Also, animals on “free range” and “organic” farms still suffer the same abuse and neglect that all animals used for food must endure. The term organic is regulated, however “natural”, “free range” and “free roaming” are not regulated by the government, so any product can wear these labels no matter how badly the animals have been treated. Animals on these farms still suffer mutilations shortly after birth—their sensitive beaks and tails are cut off, their horns are ripped from their heads, and they are castrated—all without painkillers. Since the “free range” label is unregulated, many animals on these farms are crammed by the thousands into sheds and never set foot outside. Even if they were given access to the outdoors, farmed animals are still bred to grow so large that many of them can no longer walk. Like all animals used for food, animals on “free range” and “organic” farms are killed when they’re only a few months old, and their deaths are just as gruesome as those of animals on conventional farms. Their throats are cut, often while they are still completely conscious and struggling to escape, and many of them are still alive when their bodies are hacked apart. In short, there are no “free range” or “nicer” slaughterhouses.
“Native Americans have been hunting and eating meat forever. Are you saying that indigenous groups need to give up their traditions?”
Like tribal people all over the world, Native Americans traditionally ate mainly plant-based diets. Archeological evidence shows that our ancestors across the globe only turned to eating the flesh of animals in times of scarcity. Not only that, but with most Native American tribes, they prayed to and thanked the animal for giving it’s life for their benefit, and they used every last bit of the animal. Nothing was wasted. Eating meat today is unnecessary and unhealthy, and many Native Americans are returning to their traditional plant-based diets.
“Don’t plants feel pain?”
Nope! Plants are alive and do respond to light and water, but they don’t feel pain. Plants, when stressed, release a chemical called ethylene. This chemical indicates that the plant needs to increase cell growth or take other measures against the perceived stressor. Scientists measured levels of ethylene released from stressed plants by “listening” to them using lasers until a certain frequency was measured. While this research shows that plants might have a stress-avoidance response, it is quite a stretch to refer to this as “pain”. The ability to experience pain requires a brain, a central nervous system, and pain receptors, which animals have, but plants lack. They also lack the ability to move away from sources of stress, an evolutionary trait linked with the ability to feel pain. We all understand that there is a huge difference between cutting your lawn and cutting off a cat’s tail and between breaking up a head of lettuce and bashing in a dog’s head.
“If you were starving on a boat at sea, and there was only an animal on the boat, would you eat the animal?”
Uh, yeah. Humans will go all out to save their own lives, even if it means hurting someone/something innocent. Hello, zombies don’t care if they are related to the person they’re eating, they’re just trying to survive. However, since there is an array of meat-free foods to choose from in every grocery store, these examples/this question aren’t/isn’t relevant to our daily choices :)
“Do you care more about animals than you do about humans?”
No, but since people are a lot more capable doing something about/expressing their dissatisfaction, animals need representation that will be recognized and taken seriously by those in power!
And now, my most favorite question:
“Wasn’t Hitler a vegetarian?”
Actually, contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t. At times, Hitler claimed that he didn’t eat meat because he wanted to be seen as someone who was only focused on the needs of the German people. However, Hitler was actually a devoted carnivore, and his consumption of fish, pigeons, and sausages is extensively documented. Not only that, but vegetarians were forbidden to organize new groups or to start publications during the Reich. A many leading vegetarian magazines, such as the Vegetarian Warte, was forced to suspended publication. A competing journal, The Vegetarian Press, was allowed to limp along during the Nazi years, but it was prohibited from using the term “vegetarian movement,” and it was barred from publishing the time and place of vegetarian gatherings. Consequently, vegetarians willing to run the risk of imprisonment or worse, were compelled to meet in secret. See below for an article about Hitler’s lack of vegetarianism.
Good sources to check out about becoming vegetarian:
GoVeg.com – Now normally I wouldn’t recommend going to a
PETA-run website (I think they give the whole veggie/vegan community a bad name, even though their actions are usually done with good intentions), but this website is really good. It contains very useful information (a lot of the factual information above I got from this site), and excellent recipes.
VRG.org – Questions about SOY? Heard about those cancer risks? Yeah I did too, and decided to do some research on it- turns out, it’s complete bullshit. So don’t worry, you can eat as much soy nuts and tofu as you want- within reason of course :)
JesusVeg.com. This link provides information from a Christian perspective about why people should be vegetarian, as well as links to additional Web sites that address animal issues from non-Christian perspectives.