I am often questioned and judged for being vegetarian. People seem to take offense to my lifestyle and eating habits because they do not fit perfectly into the “normal” American diet laid out for us by the big-time food companies. Because I would rather eat tofu dogs, veggie burgers, and falafels, than animal limbs, I am criticized and debated with.
“People eat meat and think they will become as strong as an ox, forgetting that the ox eats grass.”
– Pino Caruso
In celebration of my approaching 5-year anniversary of being meat-free, I wanted to share some facts about the meat industry that may give you the perfect idea for a 2014 New Years Resolution. But first you may want to know why I made the switch.
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.“
– Albert Einstein
I disembarked my first cruise ship contract in January 2009. Having had several vegetarian friends, the concept had been on my mind for a while. I left the ship thinking, “how fresh can our meat be if we were at sea for two weeks?” I know that industrial sized freezers can preserve perishables for, like ever, but I was uncomfortable at the thought that the meat I was consuming could have been stored for months and transported from anywhere. I had no idea about what I was eating. So, having struggled for years with stomach cramps and digestive inconveniences, I decided to ditch that habit and take on a vegetarian existence.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Uncomfortable with the labels and judgment, I refused to call myself a “vegetarian” for months, instead telling everyone that I was just testing myself to see how long I could go without a burger or steak. Turns out, I can go a very long time! At first I thought it would be extremely difficult, but speaking as a former frequent orderer of meat-lovers pizzas and the like, it’s not bad at all. My diet is now more creative and experimental as I play with different recipes and protein sources.
“My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
What started as a method of smoothing out my digestive kinks quickly led to my research behind the scenes of our meat industry. Through several books, websites and documentaries, I’ve formed some very strong opinions of the way in which our food is cultivated. Please take a moment to scroll through the bulleted information below for a more well-rounded idea as to the benefits of switching dietary habits.
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”
– Paul McCartney
HERE ARE THE FACTS:
- Humans are natural herbivores due to the shape of the incisors and molars, having nails instead of claws, the pH levels of the stomach, and the length of the small intestine.
- “Human bodies, on the other hand, were not designed to process animal flesh, so all the excess fat and cholesterol from a meat-based diet makes us sick. Heart disease, for example, is the number one killer in America according to the American Heart Association, and medical experts agree that this ailment is largely the result of the consumption of animal products. Meat-eaters have a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease than vegetarians!” – “The Natural Human Diet
- “Higher levels of meat, especially red meat (eg, beef, pork, lamb) and processed meat (eg, bacon, hotdogs, luncheon meat, chicken nuggets, and other salted or cured meats) have been linked to a variety of cancers in a number of studies.” – Amy Joy Lanou and Barbara Svenson, The National Center for Biotechnology Information
- “Annual medical costs in the United States directly attributable to smoking: $65 billion; Annual medical costs in the United States directly attributable to meat consumption: $60–$120 billion” – John Robbins, Taking a Stand Against S.A.D. (Standard American Diet)
The following Bullet points are facts I gleaned from Stewart Rose’s book, The Vegetarian Solution: Your Answer to Heart Disease, Cancer, Global Warming, and More.
- “When we eat meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, we are consuming a more concentrated source of chemicals, so the levels of toxic chemicals that accumulate in our bodies are even higher than in the animals we eat.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “Accompanying the increased consumption of animal-based foods is a rise in many diseases that are considered to be related to diet: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “A vegetarian diet will reduce thromboembolic disease [blood clots and strokes] by 90 percent and coronary occlusions [clogged coronary arteries leading to the heart – the cause of heart attacks] by 97 percent.” – Journal of the American Medical Association, as presented by Stewart Rose in The Vegetarian Solution
- “To enable farm animals to survive under such unnatural conditions, farmers must routinely give them antibiotics. …of the 29 million pounds of antibiotics used in the United States each year, nearly 85 percent is used in animal feed.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “Seventeen times more protein can be obtained by eating plants directly rather than by first feeding them to animals and then eating plants ‘second hand.’” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “It is a fact that for every meat-based meal served, 12 nutritious vegetarian meals could be served.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “If America alone took the food currently fed to farm animals in the United States, we would have enough to feed an extra 800 million people, the entirety of the world’s hungry, and we could do it without plowing even one extra acre of farm land.” – Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University, as presented by Stewart Rose in The Vegetarian Solution
- “In 1997, poultry, swine, beef, and dairy facilities produced a total of 291 billion pounds of waste.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “…the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than the transportation industry.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “According to the Center for International Forestry Research, beef exports have accelerated the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. The total area destroyed increased from 102.5 million acres in 1990 to 145 million acres in 2000. In only 10 years, an area twice the size of Portugal was destroyed, almost all of it to clear pasture for cattle.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
- “Farm animals today are forced to live a much harder life than in former times. This is because the interests of modern factory farms revolve only around efficient, low-cost production, and unfortunately that results in greatly increased suffering for billions of animals.” – Stewart Rose, The Vegetarian Solution
By coincidence, on the exact day that I began assembling this post, the Rolling Stone website published an article by Paul Solotaroff, “In the Belly of the Beast,” that shed disturbing light on the current yet alarmingly still grim state of America’s food industry. Although I am passionate about an alternative diet to meat, I firmly believe that no matter what your stance on the issue, it is EXTREMELY important to be informed as to how this “food” is treated. Please take the time to explore this article and become educated on the issue. He provides photos, quotes, videos, and figures to support his findings.
Ellen’s Vegan outlook:
A kid’s opinion on eating meat:
This video pushed Russell Brand to be vegan:
Documentary about the mistreatment of animals – I cried through most of this, but it’s an important look at what goes on behind the scenes in various sectors of how animals are used for the “benefit” of humans. The introduction is a bit dramatic in its comparisons but the following clips and information are valuable in the exposé of animal mistreatment: