Why Become Vegetarian?
Posted by sadeepa palliyaguru on November 26, 2007
Why Become Vegetarian?
There are as many reasons for becoming vegetarian as there are vegetarians; it’s a highly personal and individual decision to make. But in a survey conducted on behalf of The Vegetarian Society the majority of people said that they gave up meat and fish because they did not morally approve of killing animals , or because they objected to the ways in which animals are kept, treated and killed for food.
With the growing awareness of the importance of healthy food, many people are also becoming vegetarian because it matches the kind of low fat, high fibre diet recommended by dieticians and doctors. Concern about the environment is another factor as people become more aware of the effect raising animals for their meat is having on the environment. Or you may be concerned about wasting world food resources by using land to raise animals for meat instead of growing crops that can feed more people directly.
A vegetarian is someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs.
A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products.
Types of Vegetarian
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian . Eats both dairy products and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
Lacto-vegetarian . Eats dairy products but not eggs.
Vegan . Does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other animal product
Common Questions about Vegetarianism
What is a Vegetarian?
A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, fish, poultry or any slaughterhouse by-product such as gelatine. Vegetarians live on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit, with or without free-range eggs, milk and milk products. Vegetarians not eating anything containing dairy products or eggs are called vegans.
Isn’t it hard being a vegetarian?
Not at all. Vegetarian food is widely available in shops and restaurants, it’s easy to cook and you’re probably already eating many vegetarian meals such as beans on toast or jacket potato and cheese without even putting your mind to it. It’s no sacrifice to give up meat when there are so many delicious recipes and so many tasty foods to experiment with. Plus you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re eating a healthy diet that doesn’t involve the killing of animals or the abuse of the world’s resources.
Aren’t vegetarians being hypocritical because they still wear leather or exploit cows for their milk?
There is a very valid argument for becoming vegan – for giving up all dairy products, eggs and any other animal by-products. But realistically speaking, few people can go from being a meat eater to a vegan overnight. Vegetarianism is a very important halfway house. And even if you never go on to being vegan, you’ve already made an impact and saved the lives of many animals simply by giving up meat. Far from being hypocritical, you’re making an effort to change the way you live for the better. How far you go with vegetarianism is up to you, but however small the step you take, it’s not wasted. And don’t feel that you have to become a perfect vegetarian overnight. If you forget to check the ingredients list and realise that you’ve just eaten something containing gelatine, don’t feel that you’ve failed. Take it one step at a time and enjoy learning more about the vegetarian lifestyle. The important thing is that you’re doing something!
Aren’t all vegetarians pale and unhealthy?
This old stereotype has taken a long time to die out. In fact, people who follow a varied, well-balanced vegetarian diet are in line with the current nutritional recommendations for a low fat, high fibre diet. That’s why medical studies are proving that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from such illnesses as heart disease, cancer, diet-related diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. So, if for no other reason, go vegetarian as a favour to your body!
But how will I get enough of the vital nutrients such as iron and protein?
A well-balanced vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients you need for good health. In the case of protein, it’s not only found in meat. It’s also present in adequate quantities in dairy products, eggs and nuts, as well as in combinations of foods such as pulses and grains. In fact it would be very difficult to design a vegetarian diet that doesn’t include enough protein.
Useful Tips on Going and Staying Vegetarian
Treat yourself to a vegetarian cookbook for inspiration and advice. There are a wide range covering recipes for beginners, advanced cooks, slimmers, diabetics. Most also give dietary advice.
Start gradually. Adapt familiar meals such as lasagne and shepherd’s pie by using textured vegetable protein. Although fully vegetarian, it has the look, taste and texture of mince or meat chunks, according to which variety you buy. It is available from health food stores. If you don’t buy the flavoured variety, be aware that you need to add seasoning of some kind or it will remain bland and uninteresting.
Buy vegetarian cheese. It’s not an unfamiliar product as cheese is probably already on your shopping list. But whereas some cheeses are made with an ingredient from the stomachs of slaughtered calves, vegetarian cheese uses vegetable-derived rennet. Every supermarket now stocks at least one kind of vegetarian cheese, and many of the more unusual varieties such as Stilton and Brie are also now available in vegetarian versions.
Buy free-range eggs. Again, eggs are another staple ingredient in many people’s diets so it won’t take much effort to pick up the free-range variety instead of the Battery Produced.
Read the labels. Although you may get the odd shock when you realise that a food product that seems vegetarian in fact contains something such as gelatine or animal fat, there are plenty of others you’d be surprised and pleased to find out are suitable for you.
Pulses. Forget the dried variety if you find them difficult to prepare – go for the tinned variety of kidney beans, chick peas, etc.
Adapt familiar dishes. If you’re the only vegetarian in your family and it’s too difficult or expensive to cook totally separate meals, adapt a meat dish. A casserole, for instance, can be made with beans and vegetables in one pan. Then the meat can be cooked separately and given just to the meat eaters. Or use soya mince and see if anyone notices the difference.
Don’t be put off by unfamiliar foods. Tofu, for instance, is a boon to vegetarians, especially new ones. This by-product of soya beans is incredibly versatile and easy to use. And if you use the plain variety, don’t think that you’ve done something wrong when it appears tasteless in the finished recipe – it’s meant to absorb the flavour of other ingredients. Or you can buy the smoked or marinated versions.
Explore health food stores. They’ll have vegetarian products you haven’t seen before, and the assistants will be able to answer your questions about products suitable for your new lifestyle.
What You Should Eat Every Day on a Vegetarian Diet.
- 3 or 4 servings of cereals/grains or potatoes
- 4 or 5 servings of fruit and vegetables
- 2 or 3 servings of pulses, nuts & seeds
- 2 servings of milk, cheese, eggs or soya products
- A small amount of vegetable oil and margarine or butter.
- Some yeast extract such as Marmite, fortified with vitamin B12.
?I didn?t kill the animal?it was already dead. So, I?m not responsible for the death, am I??
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. Whenever you purchase meat, you pay to have the abuse and the killing done for you.
It’s not a question of being “right” or “wrong.” If one wants fewer animals to suffer and die, then one can stop supporting such practices by not eating animal products. Adopting a vegetarian diet is the single most important thing that you can do to help animals. The average vegetarian saves more than 100 animals every year!
Vegetarianism is a personal choice?why should it be forced on everyone else??
Few people would argue that beating your dog or lighting a cat?s tail on fire are personal choices, yet what happens to animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses is every bit as gruesome and every bit as cruel. Eating meat supports these abuses. Saying that abusing animals and killing them for their flesh are private matters is the same as saying that beating our children is a personal choice. Just as child abuse involves victims who have no choice, eating meat, dairy products, and eggs also involves victims who have no choice. Just as you can choose to beat your child, you can choose to eat meat. If you do, you?re hurting someone who is powerless to stop you. This should not be your ?personal choice.? No one has the right to hurt others under the auspices of ?personal freedom.?
Darwin ?s ?survival of the fittest? theory is certainly 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 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. Animal rights advocates believe that we should show this compassion to all animals. Please examine the sad lives and gruesome deaths of animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses?there is no way to argue that what happens to these animals is morally right.
“Don’t farmers have to treat their animals well so that they’ll produce more milk and lay more eggs?”
This is simply not true?today, factory farms use massive amounts of drugs to keep animals alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. Mother pigs confined to gestation crates are never able to turn around or take a step in any direction and even have to live amid their own excrement, but they will still produce piglets?all the while developing sores, going insane, and suffering worse than any of us can imagine. Animals in factory farms do not gain weight, do not lay eggs, and do not produce milk as a result of being comfortable, content, or well cared for; rather, they do these things because they have been manipulated through genetics, medications, hormones, and management techniques. The giant corporations that run most factory farms have found that they make more money by cramming animals into tiny spaces, even though many of the animals get sick and some die. Industry journal National Hog Farmer explains, “Crowding Pigs Pays,” and egg-industry expert Bernard Rollins writes that “chickens are cheap; cages are expensive.” As Dr. Michael Greger explains, “Farmed animals today are sick?these are sick and diseased chickens, pigs, fish, and cows, producing diseased and bacteria-laden flesh and pus-filled milk that even industry standards call ‘unhealthful.'”
It is simple economics that as fewer people eat meat and dairy products, prices will go down. All the meat, dairy products, and eggs that now exist will be sold, but they will be sold for less money. As more and more people adopt a vegan diet, fewer of these products will be produced because prices will fall. Eventually, we?ll stop raising animals for food altogether. Many people who work in low-level positions in these industries are already being treated very poorly ; for example, most slaughterhouse workers aren?t given health insurance, and many line workers suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. The jobs that replace these positions will certainly be better than the jobs that are lost as this industry goes the way of the slave trade.
?Dominion? doesn?t mean ?domination and exploitation.? 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 and human consequences of eating animals, which are reason enough for faith-based people to adopt a vegan diet, God created animals with needs, desires, and species-specific behaviors, and all these things are denied the animals who are turned into food by the farmed-animal industries. God also created animals with a well-developed capacity for pain, which causes extreme suffering in a factory-farm setting
There will be a great deal more to eat. Farmed animals must eat, just as we do, but only a fraction of what is fed to them is turned into meat?most of the grain and soybeans are used by the animals for energy or turned into inedible blood, bone, feathers, and skin. In the U.S., animals raised for food are fed more than 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains that we grow. The world?s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people?more than the entire human population on Earth. If we stop feeding all our land?s output to farmed animals, there will be more food for humans to eat.
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, tempeh, soy milk, and soy-based mock 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. According to the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some types of cancer. Plus, it’s suspected that the high sulfur content of animal protein weakens people’s bones. For example, a study by researchers at the University of California found significantly less bone formation in meat-eating women than in vegan women.
The American Dietetic Association and the World Health Organization, among other groups, point out that vegan diets provide everything we need and that, in fact, they cut out a lot of the stuff that?s horrible for us. Thus, vegans 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.
?Eating meat is natural?it?s been going on for thousands of years. Our bodies are designed that way, aren?t they??
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
Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do?to feed their babies. ?Dairy cows? are impregnated every year in order to keep up a steady supply of milk, and their babies are taken away from them within a day of birth. The cows and their calves are treated horribly, with male calves crammed into the notoriously cruel veal crate. If you?re consuming dairy products, you?re supporting the veal industry
Furthermore, milk is not a ?health food.? While dairy products are implicated in the development of heart disease and cancer, researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that they are also linked to osteoporosis, the very disease that the dairy products industry claims it can help prevent.
It?s no coincidence that some of the world?s top athletes are also vegetarian. Since vegetarians have more energy, need less sleep, and are less likely to be overweight and to suffer from ailments like cancer and heart disease, sports champions are dropping the meat and loading up on grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables to increase their strength and stamina. Without all the animal fat and cholesterol weighing them down, athletes like fitness guru Jack LaLanne, ?Olympian of the Century,? Carl Lewis, and tennis champion Martina Navratilova have been at the top of their games since they adopted vegetarian diets.
?If you were starving on a boat at sea, and there were an animal on the boat, would you eat the animal??
Many people would eat human flesh if that were the only option. For example, the movie Alive documents the story of rugby players who ate human flesh in order to survive after their plane crashed in the Andes Mountains. Humans will go to extremes to save their own lives, even if it means hurting someone innocent. However, since there is an array of meat-free foods to choose from in every grocery store, these examples aren?t relevant to our daily choices.
?It?s OK to eat eggs because chickens lay them naturally. The eggs we buy in the supermarket are sterile?they aren?t unborn fetuses, are they??
This is true, but the real cruelty of egg production lies in the treatment of the ?laying hens,? who are perhaps the most abused of all factory-farmed animals. The 450 million chickens used by the egg industry endure a nightmare that begins with painful mutilations right after birth. A large portion of each hen?s sensitive beak is sliced off with a burning-hot blade; the hens are not given any pain relief, and many die of dehydration and weakened immune systems because the pain makes them unable to eat. Chickens? claws and toes often become stuck in the wire cages, so they are also cut off.
Each egg from today?s factory farms represents 27 hours of misery for a hen who is packed inside a cage the size of a filing-cabinet drawer with up to 10 other birds. Cages are stacked many tiers high, and feces from cages above fall onto the animals below. Hens become lame and develop osteoporosis from forced immobility and from losing calcium when producing so many egg shells. Some birds die from dehydration when they become trapped in the cage wire or in the conveyor belts and are unable to reach water. At just 2 years old, hens are ?spent? and are sent to the slaughterhouse. Egg hatcheries don?t have any use for male chicks; each year, millions of these chicks are killed by suffocation, by decapitation, by being crushed, or by being ground up while still alive. Read more about ?laying hens.?
?What?s wrong with eating ?free range? eggs and ?organic? meat? Aren?t the animals who are used for these treated better than the animals who are used for ?regular? eggs and ?regular? meat??
Whether you?re talking about ?free range? 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. Labels like ?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? 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. Eating meat today is unnecessary and unhealthy, and many Native Americans are returning to their traditional plant-based diets.
The people who ask this question invariably have not dedicated their lives to alleviating the suffering of either humans or animals. Surely, all suffering should be addressed. Princeton bioethicist Dr. Peter Singer says, ?When nonvegetarians say that ?human problems come first,? I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farmed animals.? A vegan diet is the healthiest, most environmentally responsible way of eating, and it makes the most economic sense when you consider both the plight of U.S. farm workers and the problems faced by poverty-stricken people around the world. One great thing about veganism is that it allows you to take a stand against suffering without doing anything that requires any real time or effort. You simply stop supporting cruelty, environmental degradation, and the exploitation of human workers.
Most people believe that unnecessary suffering is bad. Other animals — particularly vertebrates — suffer physical pain and even emotional stress in much the same way humans do. Because of this, we should take animals’ suffering seriously. Because animal products are not a necessary part of our diet, becoming vegan is one of the most effective ways to reduce animals’ suffering.
Why should people sacrifice convenience, cravings, and cost for the sake of an animal?
We claim to be moral beings who do not act merely to satisfy hedonistic impulses. We would not want to live in a society where people were free to satisfy all their cravings freely, where the strongest could cause suffering for the weaker if they wanted to do so. Likewise, how can we justify satisfying all our cravings for animal products, when animals must suffer in order to provide them?
Happily, there is nothing inherently less satisfying or more expensive in a vegan diet. Beans and rice are less expensive than beef or pork; heating up a Boca Burger is less expensive than buying a Big Mac; and most people find vegan food to be as tasty as non-vegan food. Even if this were not the case, most vegans don’t consume animals or animal products because they do not want to be the cause of needless suffering, regardless of the convenience, taste, or cost. Living an ethically consistent life is more important.
We don’t just happen to kill and eat animals to save them from dying a natural death. We breed more than 9 billion farm animals in the U.S. each year because of the consumer demand for animal products. If we stop buying animal products, animal industries will have no incentive to keep breeding these animals.
Why should I concern myself with non-human animal suffering when there are so many people suffering in the world?
We each have limited time, energy, and money to offer. The causes and cures of human suffering are complex, often distant, and difficult to address, especially by an individual. The causes and cures of animal suffering are often simpler and all around us. Making the choice to adopt a vegan diet can have a far-reaching effect on reducing suffering in the world.
Peter Singer writes in Animal Liberation :
Among the factors that make it difficult to arouse public concern about animals, perhaps the hardest to overcome is the assumption that “human beings come first” and that any problem about animals cannot be comparable, as a serious moral or political issue, to the problems about humans. A number of things can be said about this assumption. First, it is in itself an indication of speciesism. How can anyone who has not made a thorough study of the topic possibly know that the problem is less serious than problems of human suffering? One can claim to know this only if on assumes that animals really do not matter, and that however much they suffer, their suffering is less important than the suffering of humans. But pain is pain, and the importance of preventing unnecessary pain and suffering does not diminish because the being that suffers is not a member of our species. What would we think of someone who said that “whites come first” and that therefore poverty in Africa does not pose as serious a problem as poverty in Europe?
It is true that many problems in the world deserve our time and energy. Famine and poverty …all are major issues, and who can say which is the most important? yet once we put aside speciesist biases, we can see that the oppression of nonhumans by humans ranks somewhere along with these issues. The suffering that we inflict on nonhuman beings can be extreme, and the numbers involved are gigantic … [and] should cause at least as much concern, especially since this suffering is so unnecessary and could easily be stopped if we wanted to stop it. Most reasonable people want to prevent war, racial inequality, poverty, and unemployment; the problem is that we have been trying to prevent these things for years, and now we have to admit that, for the most part, we don’t really know how to do it. By comparison, the reduction of the suffering of nonhuman animals at the hands of humans will be relatively easy, once human beings set themselves to do it.
In any case, the idea that “humans come first” is more often used as an excuse for not doing anything about either human or nonhuman animals than as a genuine choice between incompatible alternatives. For the truth is that there is no incompatibility here … there is nothing to stop those who devote their time an energy to human problems from joining the boycott of the products of agribusiness cruelty. It takes no more time to be a vegetarian than to eat animal flesh. In fact … those who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people everywhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests; moreover, since a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one based on meat dishes, they would have more money available to devote to famine relief, population control, or whatever social or political cause they thought most urgent. … [W]hen nonvegetarians say that “human problems come first,” I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.”
Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland wrote in Jean Christophe : To one whose mind is free, there is something even more intolerable in the suffering of animals than in the sufferings of humans. For with the latter, it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the person who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any person were to refer to it, they would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. That alone is the justification of all that humans may suffer. It cries vengeance upon all the human race. If God exists and tolerates it, it cries vengeance upon God.
Some vegans find that their religious views support their ethical commitment. For other vegans, religion has nothing to do with their commitment.