In today’s society, one in which obesity is hugely prevalent and cancer incidents increase exponentially compared to the fewer numbers of past generations, we must open our eyes to the frightening truths about our unhealthy lifestyles. Our lifestyle choices not only cause damage to the human body but to the environment as well. One of the largest factors relating to the general decline of people’s health as well as contributing to the decline of the environment is the consumption of meat.
There are any different varieties of vegetarians. The term vegetarian broadly describes a person that does not eat meat; however, there are many different classifications of vegetarianism depending on a person’s specific dietary practices. For example, a vegan does not consume any meat or animal byproducts (e.g. eggs, milk, cheese, honey). Lacto vegetarians exclude meat and eggs, but will eat dairy products. Lacto-ovo vegetarians exclude meat, but will eat eggs and dairy products.
There are other practices and types of vegetarianism, but in regards to this argument, I am speaking of vegetarianism in a broad manner that can be interpreted in the way that fits each individual. In other words, vegetarianism, in its many forms are each better than a carnivorous diet.
There are multiple reasons to support the decision of choosing to become vegetarian. In this argument, I will be addressing three key reasons why vegetarianism is a healthier way of life.
One of the most prominent reasons that I found is the compelling evidence produced by numerous studies which associated reduced risks of numerous chronic diseases with the vegetarian diet. In July 2009, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) released a position paper in which it concluded that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” (Journal of the American Diabetic Association, July 2009). The ADA also indicated that vegetarian diets are often associated with lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower overall cancer rates. The American Society for Nutrition collected the results of multiple collegiate and reputable studies of which they collaborated and concluded that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. The studies comprised in the collaboration include the California Adventist Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Physicians’ Health Study, the Health Professional’s cohort, the Iowa Womens’ Study, Oxford Vegetarian Study and the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Oxford Study.
Some earlier studies suggested concerns as to whether the vegetarian diet was capable of providing well balanced nutrition in regards to certain components such as certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids such as vitamins B-12 and D, iron, calcium, zinc, and riboflavin. These concerns have been reassured through research and according to a recent study performed by Harvard Medical School; vegetarians can easily consume a well-balanced plant based diet that provides all of the required nutrients required for a healthy lifestyle.
Vegetarians do need to make health conscious dietary choices to ensure that they are getting the proper amount of these nutrients, but the planning and nutritious choices are well worth the positive health benefits that can be gained by the effort (Brown University Health Education).
The next premise for choosing a vegetarian diet is based on the drastic negative impact that raising animals for consumption has on the environment. In November of 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report that aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems.
The report lists the effects to the environment range from “land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortages, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity (Steinfeld et al).” To relate the level of severity of the negative impact, the senior U.N. Food and Agricultural Organizations (F.A.O.) official Dr. Harding stated that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems” and that “urgent action is requires to remedy the situation (Steinfeld et al).”
The F.A.O. research states that livestock production is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions (Spotlight: Livestock’s Impact on the Environment). The waste from livestock farms emits hydrogen sulfide, methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia which pollute the air. Surrounding waterways become polluted by the excrement waste that contaminates the soil and eventually the water. Further research uncovered that half of the water used in the United States goes to animal agriculture which deprives areas where water shortage is an issue.
Also deforestation is a result of ranchers and breeders making more room for farms and feed crops to sustain the animals. This deforestation causes soil erosion and contributes to species extinction and habitat loss (Vegetarian 101).” The effects on the environment are substantial and undeniable.