Why Be Vegetarian?

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The number of people choosing to be vegetarian is on the rise. This is due to the many benefits one can gain from consuming a vegetarian diet.
Some of the famous personalities who are / were vegetarian include Sir Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osborne, Brad Pitt, Sinead O’Connor, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Emerson, Buddha, Thoreau, Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Origen, Diogenes, Cicero, Sir Isaac Newton, Herodotus, Porphyry, Voltaire, Shelley, Plutarch, H.G. Wells and Ovid.
First and foremost, what does the word ‘vegetarian’ actually mean? Vegetarians are people who generally abstain from partaking meat of any nature, but consume only vegetables, nuts, grains and fruits. This, of course, is only a general definition as there are exceptions. In the practice of vegetarianism, groups can be further classified into the following examples:
1) Vegans: Do not consume meat in any form, and also abstain from consuming any animal products such as milk, cheese and eggs.
2) Lacto vegetarians: Do not consume any meat, but partakes animal products such as milk and cheese.
3) Ovo-lacto vegetarians: Do not consume any meat, but partakes animal products such as milk and cheese, INCLUDING eggs.
4) Pesco vegetarians: Those who do not consume any other meat except fish.
Many more types of vegetarians have been classified in recent years. This includes fruitarians who only consume diet consisting of fruits, nuts, seeds and any other plant materials that can be gathered without killing the actual plant itself (eg. apples may be picked without killing the plant, but carrots cannot).
Within the Hindu culture itself, some have also chosen to abstain from consuming any dishes containing onion and garlic for their subtle qualities. For example, mushrooms have been thought to take on the quality of ignorance, while garlic and onions take on the quality of rajas (passion).
Jain vegetarianism also goes to the extent of not eating anything that has been grown underground such as carrots, potatoes garlic, onions and so on.
Until today, there are endless debates all around the world as to what constitutes as “true vegetarianism”. Personally, we would say that it is a matter of preference. Should one choose to be a vegetarian, it is his or her personal choice. Therefore, they should practice it with whatever resonates with their heart, and it should not be for others to judge.
In recent years, there has also been an increase of people confining themselves to only consuming raw vegetables that are organically grown. It is believed that cooking reduces the vital nutrients and enzymes which are beneficial for health.
This article aims to introduce the various reasons as to how one benefits from being a vegetarian.

HEALTH
One of the main reasons of why people resort to vegetarianism is due to health reasons. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), members of the American Medical Association (AMA), have stated that a vegetarian diet helps prevent heart diseases, diabetes, gallstones, kidney stones, asthma and osteoporosis as well as lowering blood pressure.
The largest epidemiological study ever conducted (the China-Oxford-Cornell study) discovered that those who eat meat typical for Americans have 17 times more possible of dying from a heart disease, and for women, 5 times more to suffer from breast cancer, than those who get 5% or less of their protein from consuming meat.
CancerMeat eaters are more likely to contract cancer compared to vegetarians. Again, according to the PRCM, numerous epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that vegetarians are nearly 50% less likely to die from cancer than non-vegetarians. For example, a meat eater’s risk of getting ovarian cancer is 3.6 times greater compared to vegetarians.
Heart DiseasesThe common cause of death in most countries is heart attack. In the United States, 1 person dies of a heart attack every 45 seconds. Cholestrol found in meat is the main culprit for heart problems and strokes. According to Dr. W.A. Thomas from the Journal of the American Medical Association (6/3/61), “a vegetarian diet is said to prevent 90% of thromboembolic disease and 97% of coronary occlusions.”
The average cholesterol consumption of a meat-centered diet is 210mg per day. A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated the effectiveness of a vegetarian diet in lowering blood cholesterol. Staying on a vegetarian diet for a whole year lowers your cholesterol by 24.3%. The results also suggest that a vegetarian diet is just as effective as statin drugs (drugs to reduce cholesterol in the body) in lowering one’s blood cholesterol. It is important to note that the sales ofs tatin drugs are responsible for some of the big pharmaceutical companies’ massive profits! Why pay more to buy drugs when you can buy vegetables instead?!
Drugged LivestockAntibiotics are also fed to livestock to control various diseases. The antibiotics and microorganisms are retained in the meat, and are eaten by Man. This has led to an increase of resistant strains of bacteria which pose danger to one’s health. Some people are already finding themselves resistant to some types of antibiotics. Hence, one may find their body not responding to a particular antibiotic that they are already resistant to when being treated for a severe condition.
ENVIRONMENTIt has also been suggested that the reduction or elimination of eating meat can solve many of the world’s massive environmental problems such as global warming, loss of rainforests and extinction of species.
Global WarmingGlobal warming is caused by carbon dioxide gas released from burning fossil fuels (oil and natural gas). A meat diet requires 3 times more fossil fuel burning than a vegetarian diet. By going vegetarian, global warming which causes rising temperature of the Earth can be halted greatly.
The primary reason for destroying natural forests is due to meat-eating. 260 million acres of the United State’s forest land has been cleared for cropland to support meat-centered diet (55-square-feet of tropical rainforest is consumed to produce every quarter-pound of beef). Due to the loss of tropical rain forests, 1,000 species are eliminated each year, and the rate is growing annually.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that, “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent – 18 percent – than transport”. Becoming a vegetarian decreases the amount of carbon footprints far greater than not using cars or plastic bags. In fact, some experts claim that it is the number one way by which humans can reduce the most amounts of carbon footprints.
Depletion of Natural ResourcesMeat-eating has undoubtedly caused rapid depletion of world’s natural resources. Raising livestock for their meat is a very inefficient way of generating food eg. pound for pound. Far more resources are expended to produce meat than to produce grains, fruits and vegetables.
Did you know that more than half of all water used for all purposes in the U.S. is used for livestock production?! According to sources, 100,000,000 gallons of water are used every day by just one plant that processes chickens. This amount of water is enough to service a community of 25,000 people. It is also interesting to note that the amount of water used in the production of the average cow is sufficient to float a destroyer! On the other hand, 25 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of wheat in contrast to 5,000 gallons of water required to produce a pound of Californian beef!
Meat-eating also contributes to the rapid depletion of oil reserves. Research sources quote that it takes nearly 78 calories of fossil fuel (oil, natural gas, etc.) energy to produce every 1 calory of beef protein whereas only 2 calories of fossil fuel energy are required to produce 1 calory of soybean. If the world would give up eating meat altogether, the oil reserve would last for a longer duration of time to pave way for further development of practical alternative for energy sources.
ETHICSThe main reason why most people become vegetarian is out of compassion for the lives of animals. Many cannot bear to live on the enjoyment of eating the meat of animals who have suffered a cruel death just to feed Man. More than 7 billion animals die yearly for human consumption. In the United States alone, 660,000 animals are killed for meat every hour just to cater the meat-eaters’ appetite.
Experiences in slaughterhouses have turned many people to become vegetarians. Slaughterhouses often mistreat animals to reap massive profits. For example, veal calves are purposely kept in a state of induced anaemia to satisfy consumers’ appetite for their white flesh. Due to this, some drop dead when taken out of their crates. Some sources on the internet also show that the heads of chickens are banged on the walls to make them unconscious for later slaughter. This will keep the meat fresh as they are slaughtered alive. That is why most of the slaughterhouse workers are not on the job for long. Of all the occupations in the U.S., statistics show that slaughterhouses possess the highest turnover rate and the highest on-the-job injuries.
More examples can be given for the mistreatment of animals, which are frequently reported by anti animal-cruelty organisations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Countering Malnourishment
There are 20 million of people who die annually due to malnutrition. A mere reduction of America’s meat intake alone can feed 100 million people. As already stated in the above, the land that can be used to grow plants to feed people are wasted on raising livestock (to accommodate them and to plant food for them).
One acre of land can produce 40,000 pounds of potatoes or 250 pounds of beef. But research shows that 56% of all U.S. farmlands are used for beef production. Out of 20 million tons of plant protein given to raise cows, only 2 million of protein is used. This translates to 18 tons of plant protein being wasted. Calculations by experts have shown that the percentage of protein wasted by cycling grain through livestock is 90%, which could have been used to counter the protein deficit for humans.
It is evident here that plants yield 10 times more protein per acre than meat! Therefore, becoming a vegetarian in mass would certainly be the most ideal way of combating malnutrition in the world, helping especially the African continent, North Korea and so on.
The list as to why one should choose to be a vegetarian is endless. Spiritual reasons are the main one of them all. It is evident in India that many Hindu denominations encourage their followers to be vegetarian. Many believe that sticking to a vegetarian diet raises their vibrations and help them live a more meaningful life in their spiritual journey.





Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (Volume 1, Issue 2 - MAR 2012 Edn)

1 Response for “ Why Be Vegetarian?”

  1. mrs tania says:

    I want to be vegetarian but to suddenly give up meat can be quite difficult, isn't it? Is there a good way to do it? Precautions to take before I turn vegetarian? Please enlighten me. Thanks

     

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