Why I'm a vegetarian

Being a vegetarian is central to my life; this does not mean that it dominates my life but that it is an integral part of it. So few of the things that we do in life, and choices that we make have no negatives attached to them. I feel it's important that each of us makes choices that do the most good and the least harm both to ourselves and to others. The individual acting according to his or her conscience can be the root of great change in the world. We can't rely on others to make the world a better place, change has to come from each of us. Vegetarianism is one of the few things that I am totally comfortable with and have no reservations about. When I sit down to eat a meal I feel good about myself and this is very important. Vegetarianism is beneficial to everyone and everything including ourselves. At one point in our evolution eating meat made sense and was perhaps essential for our survival. Today the opposite is true. There is a great deal of literature about diet and its effects on us, other animals and the environment so I won't duplicate that here. I do want to outline the things that are important to me, however.


The first thing that is important to me is the knowledge that no animal was abused, confined and killed to make my meal. The abuses that are inflicted on animals in the name of profit are hard to imagine. They are real to me because I know that they exist and I have no need to try and keep them out of my mind. Americans have an image of the family farm with cows in the pasture and chickens in the barnyard that is a relic of the past. Modern confinement (factory) farming is designed to make a profit and is very cruel. If a domestic animal was treated in such a manner the owner would be put in jail, but because it is done on a grand scale this cruelty is ignored. I am not one who overreacts and bleeds for any mistreated animal or pet but we have a choice and I chose to avoid the cruelty by not participating in the economy of this industry any more than I have to. Again the individual is the source of the demand for meat and animal products, if there was no demand then there would be no cruelty. By not eating meat I am saying; don't raise and kill that animal for me because I won't buy it.


Aside from the cruelty involved in eating animals the process is very wasteful. Most of the land devoted to agriculture in this country is used to grow food not for humans but for animals. By feeding grains to animals and then eating the animals most of the nutrition is wasted. The efficiency of animal food production is often 10 to 20 percent. This means that 80 to 90 percent of the calories and protein are lost to the animal's metabolism and not converted to usable food for humans. This was not always a problem. In the past animals were useful for turning unusable plant matter into a usable food source. In some parts of the world this is still the case but not here or in most other western cultures. Far more people can be fed on a piece of land eating a vegetarian diet than a mixed diet.


If as a result of this waste and cruelty a better food was produced then perhaps it might be justified. Meat and animal products are not, however, a better food for people and in many ways are much worse for us. Part of this is the nature of meat. As animal flesh it is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Vegetarians have warned for years that it was not good to have these things in the diet but only recently has the general public become aware of this. Animals are concentrators of nutrients in the environment (though inefficient ones) and by their nature concentrators of poisons as well. One would think that plant foods would be higher in pesticides than meat, but meat and animal products always have a higher concentration of these and other toxins than plant foods. Other things are introduced into the food supply by animal farmers for various reasons including hormones and antibiotics. Both these have detrimental effects on humans. Many, many studies have shown that a vegetarian diet results in a reduction in the incidence of many life threatening diseases.


The last problem with eating meat and animal products is the ecological devastation the results from western farming practices. Because we inefficiently grow grains that are fed to animals, all the problems associated with our agricultural practices are magnified by meat consumption. These include the waste of water, petroleum, topsoil and space. Our agriculture is not sustainable. For the past fifty or so years we have been using up reserves of water and oil to support our rich tastes. This has increased global warming and reduced the topsoil available for food production. When water and oil become short in supply our ecologically expensive foods will become very costly, as they are in most of the world. No amount of government subsidy will be able to cure these problems. The ultimate insult to the earth and all life is the cutting down of rain forest in South and Central America by large agri-corporations for the grazing of cows which are killed and made into greasy hamburgers for American consumers who have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. This thought is alien to everything that I know to be right and beneficial.