by Beth Fiteni, Director, Green Inside and Out
There are many reasons why I have been vegetarian since 1991:
1) The Environment: Factory farms cause much pollution to waterways due to concentrated animal manure (and manure “lagoons” sometimes overflow). Conditions are often unsanitary, leading to the use of pesticides and antibiotics in the barns. Ranching has caused much damage to lands out west. Raising animals in feedlots is an unsustainable use of resources-- it takes about 16 pounds of grain and 2500 gallons of water to produce ONE pound of edible beef. 1 According to the United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” meat and dairy production are responsible for 18% of world greenhouse gas emissions.
2) The Animals: Animals raised for food are often treated cruelly. They are looked at as commodities, not as living beings that suffer pain. In slaughterhouses, animals are supposed to be stunned to unconsciousness by U.S. law before having their throats cut, but sometimes this step is ineffective and animals are slaughtered while fully conscious. Conditions in slaughterhouses are often dangerous for people too, with many workers sustaining injuries.
3) Health: According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a well-balanced, Vitamin B12-fortified diet of plant foods contains all the nutrients we need, and may prevent and treat certain diseases. Most people eating a typical American diet (with meat and dairy) consume 2 to 3 times more protein than we need, which is taxing on the kidneys. Meat and dairy products also contain cholesterol, animal hormones, and zero fiber. A diet rich in whole plant foods reduces one's risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.
For more info:
Food, Inc. (2008): about corporate ownership of the food system and factory farming (from a non-vegetarian point of view!). Examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.
Cowspiracy (2014): environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.
Forks Over Knives (2011): examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline traces the personal journeys of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.