Table of Contents:
1- Why and how to choose Vegetarian
Whether it's personal health or appearance, global environmental protection, or compassion toward animals, people choose to go veg for a wide variety of reasons. If you've made it this far, chances are you're interested in knowing what it takes to make the transition to an animal-free diet. See below for resources to help you out, or if you're ready, try Vowing to Go Veg.
Becoming vegetarian and/or vegan will help you look and feel better, and will contribute to your leaving less of a footprint on the planet. There are literally thousands of unique reasons for choosing to go veg... what's yours?
2- Environment & Sustainability
Saving the Earth, One Bite at a Time [from COK's Vegetarian Starter Guide]
Increasingly, the environment has become a dumping ground for toxins, chemicals, and widespread pollution. The water we drink is so contaminated, many are afraid to drink anything except bottled water. The air we breathe is tainted with ammonia, methane, and carbon monoxide. Raising animals for food is one of the leading causes of pollution and resource depletion today. Becoming vegetarian helps protect the natural environment.
Polluting Our Water and Air
The more than 10 billion land animals raised for food each year in the United States excrete massive quantities of urine and feces. According to a Minority Staff of a U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry report, the amount of farmed animal manure produced in the United States equals five tons of waste for every single human being.(1)
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the laws regulating animal waste are nowhere near as strict as those regulating human waste,(2) and the Sierra Club notes that the existing laws are often not enforced.(3) This is particularly alarming because the waste generated on factory farms can be hundreds of times more concentrated than untreated domestic sewage.(4)
The two most common techniques for handling waste on factory farms are manure lagoons and sprayfields. Manure lagoons can flood, burst, or leak, contaminating rivers, streams, and groundwater.(5) Nutrient runoff from sprayfields is another way waste enters our water sources.(5) The results can be devastating.
The Senate report mentioned above states: “Spills of liquid animal waste directly into water have an immediate environmental impact, choking out fish and other aquatic life … .The resulting hypoxia (low oxygen) from chronic nutrient enrichment can result in fish kills, odor and overall degradation of water quality.”(1)
Manure lagoons and sprayfields also pollute the air, by emitting ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide.
It takes more land, water, and energy to produce meat than to grow vegetarian foods. It’s several times more efficient to eat grains directly than to funnel them through farmed animals. According to the Audubon Society, roughly 70 percent of the grain grown and 50 percent of the water consumed in the United States are used by the meat industry.(7) A Minority Staff of Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry report states the beef in just one Big Mac represents enough wheat to make five loaves of bread.(1)
Does Eating Fish Also Harm the Planet?
While the factory farming of land animals contributes to ecological degradation, aquaculture and commercial fishing in the oceans also take a grave environmental toll.
Much of the biodiversity of the oceans has been depleted by “overfishing.” In order to kill large numbers of animals at one time, commercial fishers use sonar, spotting planes, and fishing nets large enough to swallow 12 jumbo 747 jets. While these methods clearly decrease the variety and numbers of ocean animals, aquaculture (factory farmed fish) is not much better for the planet.
According to the journal Science, a two-acre salmon farm produces as much waste as a town of 10,000 people.(8) Aquaculture farms dump waste, pesticides, and other chemicals directly into ecologically fragile coastal waters. Local ecosystems are destroyed, devastating both animal and plant life.
Becoming vegetarian not only saves the lives of countless animals each year, but also helps restore our natural environment. By avoiding animal products in our diets, we choose sustainability over ecological destruction, and take positive steps toward protecting our planet for ourselves and our loved ones.
Saving the Animals, One Bite at a Time [from COK's Vegetarian Starter Guide]
The animals we eat are individuals who experience pleasure, fear, and pain. Think about the dogs or cats or other animals you may have lived with. The animals we don’t know very well, like chickens, cows or pigs, are just as capable of experiencing sorrow, terror, joy, and other emotions as are those animals we do know. All of them, whether chicken or cat, pig or poodle, experience a wide range of emotions and value their lives. Yet, the animals who we eat in this country are treated so abusively that similar treatment of dogs or cats would be grounds for animal cruelty charges in all 50 states.
In the United States alone, more than 10 billion land animals (and billions more aquatic animals) are slaughtered for food every year—more than 1 million birds, pigs, cows, and other animals every hour. The overwhelming majority of them are kept on factory farms, where the goal is to raise as many animals as possible in the least amount of time and space.
The Free-Range Myth
Many of us may think of “free-range” farms as idyllic places where pigs relax in mud baths, chickens strut about, and cows graze leisurely in lush, green pastures while their calves romp playfully. We couldn’t be more wrong. There are few government regulations or industry standards to monitor this profitable myth, so inhumane conditions and mistreatment of the animals are common. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “free-range” and “free-roaming” only for labeling purposes and has no inspection system in place to verify that those farms claiming to be “free-range” actually are.
As with factory-farmed animals, “free-range” animals can be subjected to the same physical mutilations without painkillers and are still sent to the same slaughterhouses as their factory-farmed relatives at a young age when their “productivity” wanes.
Dr. Charles Olentine, industry trade journal Egg Industry editor, put it best in the October 2002 issue: “Just because it says free-range does not mean that it is welfare-friendly.”
Choosing Compassion Over Killing
The more we learn about cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and, in fact, all of the animals we confine and kill for food, the more we realize they are not that different from us. Certainly, they are no less worthy of our concern than the cats and dogs we live with and give our affection.
Most importantly, these “food” animals feel pain just as much and just as intensely as do dogs and cats. Sadly though, they are treated horrifically by the industries that turn them into nuggets, filets, or hot dogs. When we eat meat, eggs, and dairy, we are responsible for animal abuse. In order for us to have their flesh, milk, and eggs, farmed animals are denied nearly everything that is natural to them and are almost always abused in ways that would revolt us were we forced to participate. Each one of us has a choice: Do we want to support cruelty, or do we want to support kindness and compassion?
What is exciting is that each one of us has the ability to say no to animal cruelty every time we eat. The next time you sit down to a meal, please choose to eat compassionately. Please choose the vegetarian option.