**Note: this page will likely be a work in progress for a while. Here are some basic explanations for why I believe vegetarianism is a great lifestyle choice (for me!), and I will likely continuously add more details. First, I will also point out that I don’t think it’s necessarily the only right way to eat, for everyone, or even the only optimally healthy diet. It is simply my own response to the issues described below.
“Why are you vegetarian?” is a question I encounter frequently, and one I love answering. I probably could fill a book about all my reasons and their implications, but don’t worry, here is a readable summary.
First, I don’t believe the meat industry in the US currently is ethical. I don’t believe it’s morally wrong to eat animals, but what’s being done is pretty atrocious and unnecessarily cruel, and, of course, profit driven. Factory farms are where we see the worst practices, and unfortunately, the vast majority of meat we buy in supermarkets come from these factories, rather than the bucolic countryside farm images we like to imagine. Life must be treated with respect, whether human or not, and I refuse to support such practices.
Second, meat is a very costly commodity, resource-wise. One of the (many and complex) causes of the global food crisis is the increased consumption of meat in developed countries, and the US consumes more meat per capita than anywhere. It takes 10 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of steak, so logically we could feed more people with those grains than with the steak. (Also, if those grains were soy crops, the people fed would have more protein too). I’ve heard that experts think we could feed the world if everyone cut their meat intake by 10%. Working with the poor in the developing world and global health issues have been a concern and passion of mine for a long time, and eating vegetarian is something simple I can do to make a (small) difference in global hunger.
Related to the inefficiency of the meat industry, a huge way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat. I’ve heard environmental researchers suggest that the best way to retard global warming and reduce environmental destruction is….for every American to go without meat once a week. And I’m a tree hugger at heart, so the environmental conservation aspect of eating vegetarian is also important to me.
Fourthly, I eat a plant-based diet for health reasons. The way factory farm animals are kept predisposes them to infection, and therefore causes you, who eat them, to be vulnerable to exposure to all sorts of food poisoning microbes. E. coli, for an example, is being spread in acid resistant form due to feeding beef cattle corn instead of grass, and Salmonella typhii is spreading due to the filthy inhumane living quarters. The antibiotics used to treat factory farm animals are contributing to the evolution of resistant bacteria. From a public health standpoint, I prefer to stay away.
Lastly, and perhaps least importantly, I love eating fresh foods so much, that it just grosses me out to think about eating something’s dead muscle! I completed my bachelor’s degree in human physiology, and spent a lot of time in laboratory experimenting with muscles, from cadavers and/or animals….which is all I can think about when I see meat being served!
For more information, I recommend:
- Eating Animals, by Jonathan Sanfren Foer
- The World Food Programme on the global health crisis: http://www.wfp.org/global-food-crisis-in-depth
- NPR on resistant bacteria: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/02/21/147190101/how-using-antibiotics-in-animal-feed-creates-superbugs
- Food, Inc., the movie
- Center for Disease Control on epidemiology of food-borne illnesses : http://www.cdc.gov