“How can you survive without bacon!? ” This may be the most common question posed to me when discussing my vegetarianism. Few people ask about my moral reasons, the health benefits, or any real questions of substance. They all just want to know how I can make it through my day without bacon for breakfast or a juicy steak for dinner. Throughout the years, I have developed a response. Instead of going into an explanation of medical mumbo jumbo, or on an environmental health rant, I turn the question to them, “How can you survive with bacon? ” Think about how many people die every year from starvation.
It’s about 60 million. In the countries in which the most people die from starvation—India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—much of the grain they produce is used to fatten cattle in the United States. If Americans simply ate 10% less meat, not cut it out completely, millions of lives could be saved every year. It’s incredible to think that eating a couple less burgers a year could save human lives. I will admit that meat is a decent source of essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals; however, the human body can get everything it needs from a diet of fruit and vegetables.
Protein can come from so many different sources. Legumes, such as garbanzo bean, lentils, and peanuts are rich in protein. Grains, seeds, and nuts are also protein-packed. Even apples, grapes, peaches, pears, and watermelons contain protein. When it comes to amino acids, while it is true that many are most easily found in meat, there is only one essential amino acid that doesn’t occur plentifully in fruits and vegetables. Tryptophan, a natural sedative, is found mainly in poultry. It is because of tryptophan that many people claim to feel sleepy after eating a turkey dinner.
There are vegetarian-friendly supplements and vitamins that contain tryptophan, other essential amino acids, and just about any vitamin one can name. Our world is experiencing a shortage of fresh water, and this shortage is being made worse by animal farming. In addition to that, meat producers are among the world’s biggest polluters of water. Did you know that it takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of california beef? Those same 5,000 gallons of water could be used to produce 200 pounds of wheat.
If the US meat industry wasn’t supported by the tax-payers paying a large proportion of its water costs, then hamburger meat would cost $35 a pound. Is that really what we should be spending our money on? Animals need water to live, it takes water to grow the food the animals eat, and more water is used in the maintenance of the animals and their shelters. If we were to not use the water on animal production, our fresh water shortage wouldn’t be as muc of a problem at all. There are many more reasons why we should be vegetarian for the world’s benefit, but about personal benefits?
What could an individual get out of being a vegetarian, besides tons of squishy, yummy tofu? Well, a healthy vegetarian diet supports a lifetime of good health and provides protection against numerous diseases, including our country’s three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; … lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.
Well planned vegetarian diets provide us with all the nutrients that we need, minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products. Heart attack is the most common cause of death in the U. S. , killing one person every 45 seconds. The male meat-eater’s risk of death from heart attack is 50%. The risk to men who eats no meat is 15%. Reducing one’s consumption of meat, dairy and eggs by 10% reduces the risk of heart attack by 10%. Completely eliminating these products from one’s diet reduces the risk of heart attack by 90%.
I realize that very few people would be willing to totally give up bacon—forgive my pun—cold turkey. I’m not necessarily suggesting that everyone in the entire world or even the entire class go vegetarian. I am simply stating that it is in the best interest of one’s health to—at the very least—cut down on meat intake. The risk of contracting breast cancer is 3. 8 times greater for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week, 2. 8 times greater for women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week, and 3. 25 greater for women who eat butter and cheese 2 to 4 times a week as compared to once a week.
The risk of fatal prostate cancer is 3. 6 times greater for men who consume meat, cheese, eggs and milk daily as compared with sparingly or not at all. As you can see, meat and dairy products don’t have to be eliminated from one’s diet, but limited. People who come in contact with slaughterhouses cannot help but to be affected by what they see and hear. Those living nearby must experience the screams of terror and anger every day of the animals led to slaughter. People working inside must also see and participate in the crimes of mayhem and murder. Most who choose this line of work are not on the job for long.
Of all occupations in the U. S. , slaughterhouse worker has the highest turnover rate. It also has the highest rate of on-the-job injury. Many of those who have adopted a vegetarian diet have done so because of the ethical argument, either from reading about or personally experiencing what goes on daily at any one of the thousands of slaughterhouses in the U. S. and other countries, where animals suffer the cruel process of forced confinement, manipulation and violent death. Their pain and terror is beyond calculation. The slaughterhouse is the final stop for animals raised for their flesh.
These ghastly places, while little known to most meat-eaters, process enormous numbers of animals each years. In the U. S. alone, approximately 660,000 animals are killed for meat every hour. A surprising quantity of meat is consumed by the meat-eater. The average percapita consumption of meat in the U. S. , Canada and Australia is 200 pounds per year! The average American consumes in a 72-year lifetime approximately 11 cattle, 3 lambs and sheep, 23 hogs, 45 turkeys, 1,100 chickens and 862 pounds of fish! Bon appetite! And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I cannot live with bacon.