Why Vegetarian? Why Vegan?
1. It's healthier for you, period.
Less risk of heart disease and other diseases
The two largest killers in America are heart disease and cancer. Studies have shown that vegetarians have much healthier hearts and a 40% less chance of developing cancer (1,2). Vegan diets are free of animal protein and animal fat, both of which have been linked by numerous studies to heart disease and types of cancer (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10). Vegetarians, especially vegans, have diets that are lower in both saturated fat and trans fat, as well as cholesterol, and vegan diets have higher fiber than non-vegetarian diets. Because of this, vegetarians have healthier skin, less risk of diabetes, fewer gallstones, fewer kidney stones, lower rates of diverticulosis, and are less likely to develop halitosis (bad breath) (1,2,4,5,6,11,12).
Less risk of cancer
The National Research Council issued a technical report, Diet, Nutrition and Cancer, which showed that diet was the greatest single factor in the epidemic of cancer. Your food choices will affect the potential to develop certain types of cancers in two dramatic ways. First, there are foods to avoidlike animal protein and saturated fats that can increase the risk of certain cancers such as colon, rectum, breast and prostate. Second, there are components in certain foods, particularly plant foods, that are healthy for you and help protect against cancer and other diseases. Fiber found in legumes and whole grains, beta carotene and other phytonutrients like lycopene and proanthrocyanidins can be found in vegetables and fruits all have protective qualities against cancer (13). These components cannot be found in any meat products.Meat is not only lacking fiber and other nutrients having protective effects, but it contains many potentially carcinogenic compounds (14,15). One of these types of cancer causing compounds found in all meat including chicken, beef, pork, and fish are heterocyclic amines. Food and Chemistry Toxicology reports all meat that is cooked under normal conditions produce large quantities of these mutagens.
Less risk of food poisoning
Food borne illnesses (“food poisoning”) is another serious problem with animal food products. Although there are “only” 500,000 cases of food poisoning that require hospitalization each year, there are thousands of these people that die (16). There are undoubtedly millions of more cases per year of moderate to severe food poisoning that simply do not get reported, blaming other reasons for the flu-like symptoms. Almost all cases are caused by consuming meat, dairy, eggs and their disease producing strains of E-coli, salmonella, listeria, campylobacter, and prions that cause mad cow disease (16,17). Additionally, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and other chemicals fed to animals have been found in meat and dairy samples. These unwanted contaminants are stored in the tissue of animals and then consumed by meat eating humans at high concentrations.
2. It is healthier for our planet.
There are 12 billion animals raised, killed, and eaten each year by Americans alone. These animals consume billions of pounds of grain, billions of gallons of water, and use millions of acres of land that could have been directly used by humans or conserved. Those 12 billion animals also create a significant pollution problem with the millions of tons of excrement and methane gas ultimately affecting our water and air quality. Millions of gallons of gas and oil must be used also.
Specifically, this is how eating meat is hurting our planet:
Unnecessary use of our food supply
In the U.S. alone, we feed 70 percent of all the corn, wheat, oats and other grains we grow to animals raised to be killed then to be eaten as food (17,18). This amount fed to animals equals the caloric requirement to feed almost 9 billion people, more than the amount of humans currently on earth. This direction of the flow of food seems even more illogical if not tragic when you consider that each year there are 15 million children who die of starvation according to the World Hunger Organization. Cows and other animals simply do not create food, they waste it.
Unnecessary use of our water supply
Our supply of fresh water is becoming depleted quickly. As an example, hydrologists estimate that nearly half of the water of the Ogallala Aquifer (one of the world’s greatest underground water source supplying our southwestern states) is gone. We will never be able to replace it in our lifetime as it is considered non renewable. This aquifer supplies water for most of the cattle raised in America. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of all the water used for all purposes in the U.S. is used for raising livestock and animals for food (17,18,19). In the 2 years it takes to raise a steer, it requires 12,000 gallons of water just to produce 1 pound of meat while it takes only 240 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of soybeans (19). Eating a vegetarian or better yet, a vegan diet saves a tremendous amount of water, much of it irreplaceable water created 10,000-25,000 years ago from the Ice Age.
Unnecessary use of land
Over 80% of all agricultural land is used for raising animals for food (17,18,19,20). This has led to destruction of forests, wildlife, eventual desertification and tremendous loss of topsoil. The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the annual worldwide loss of topsoil is approximately 25 billion tons. Over the last 100 years our country has lost approximately one-third of its prime topsoil as a result of deforestation, overgrazing and overcropping to support the need of humans to raise and eat animals. It is estimated that 6 of the 7 billion tons of eroded topsoil annually in the U.S. are directly attributable to cattle and feed crop production (20). One acre of land can produce up to 26 times more protein and nutrients from vegetables/grain than if used for meat. Eating less or no meat will save land.
Raising animals for food causes more water pollution in the U.S. than any other industry because these animals produce 130 times the amount of excrement of the entire human population, 87,000 pounds per second (21,22). Cattle alone produce over 1 billion tons of organic waste each year (21). Much of this waste flows into lakes, streams, rivers, and wells contaminating our water sources (21). Although much has been documented about the negative impact on our atmosphere related to the burning of fossil fuels by cars, homes and factories, not much has been said about the effect of modern cattle raising. In fact, it is responsible for significant emissions of three of the four global warming gases. As rainforests and grasslands are cleared and burned for cattle use, carbon dioxide is emitted. Nitrous oxide is released from fertilizers used and methane, the third and most potent greenhouse gas is released directly from cattle. The worlds’2 billion cattle emit 12 to 14 percent of all the methane released into the atmosphere yearly (22).
Tropical rainforest devastation
Over one half of all the earths rainforest area has been destroyed for development. Most of this has occurred since 1966 and nearly 40% of the destruction was attributable to cattle raising (23,24). The biodiversity found within rainforests is priceless and our knowledge of all those living things it harbors is still embryonic. For humans to clear cut, burn and destroy millions of acres of rainforest to make space for cattle ranching is, at best, unconscionable. Every minute, 150 acres of rainforest are destroyed and between 40 and 50 percent of this is due to raising livestock (24,25). This is a tragic way to treat one of the greatest gifts on Earth and all the life it contains. Eliminating meat from your diet would help protect and save our rainforests.
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