10 Reasons to Be A Vegetarian

January 26, 2008

Richard Dawkins on Vegetarianism
What I am doing is going along with the fact that I live in a society where meat eating is accepted as the norm, and it requires a level of social courage which I haven’t yet produced to break out of that. It’s a little bit like the position which many people would have held a couple of hundred years ago over slavery. Where lots of people felt morally uneasy about slavery but went along with it because the whole economy of the South depended upon slavery.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has said bad eating habits are the main cause of 70 percent American deaths. Consuming more fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains are the best source for living a healthy, more enjoyable life.By being a vegetarian you are not only helping your body but you also help the environment by reducing pollution created from animal agriculture. Also, you may appreciate your healthy meals even more knowing that no animals suffered along the way.

There are literally hundreds of great reasons to green with your diet but here are our top 10.

1. Live Longer
A study from the Loma Linda University has found that vegetarians live about seven years longer, and vegans live about 15 years longer than meat eaters. These studies are further supported by the Chinese Health Project (the largest population study on diet and health to date). They found Chinese people who eat the least amount of fat and animal products have the lowest risk of cancer, heart attack and other diseases.

Further proof comes from a British research that tracked 6,000 and 5,000 meat eaters for 12 years to find that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to die from cancer during that time and 20 percent less likely to die from other diseases.

2. You’ll be more “regular.”
Vegetables are the ultimate source for fiber, which pushes waste out of the body. Meat contains no fiber. Studies done at Harvard and Brigham Women’s Hospital found that people who ate a high-fiber diet had a 42 percent lower risk of diverticulitis. People who eat vegetable rich diets also tend to have fewer incidences of constipation, hemorrhoids and spastic colon.

3. Have a good heart

Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidant nutrients that protect the heart and its arteries. Plus, produce contains no saturated fat or cholesterol.

Cholesterol levels for vegetarians are 14 percent lower than meat eaters. American diet that’s filled with saturated fats and cholestrol from meat and dairy has made cardiovascular disease the number one killer in the United States.

4. You’ll avoid toxic chemicals.
95 percent of pesticide residue in our diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products (according to EPA estimates). Fish, in particular, contain carcinogens (PCBs, DDT) and heavy metals (mercury, arsenic; lead, cadmium) that cannot be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat and dairy products are also laced with steroids and hormones.

5. You’ll give your body a spring cleaning.
Fruit and vegetable juices contain phytochemicals that help us detox naturally. Giving up meat helps rid the body of toxins (environmental pollutants, pesticides, preservatives) that overload our systems and cause illness.

6. You Will Look Better And Skinnier
On average, vegetarians are slimmer than meat eaters. Vegetarian diets are much lower in calories than the standard American diet. Vegetarians are also less likely to suffer from weight-related disorders like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

7. Think of The Money You Will Save
Replacing meat, chicken and fish with vegetables and fruits is estimated to cut food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.

8. Help the environment
You’ll help reduce waste and air pollution. Circle 4 Farms in Milford, Utah, which raises 2.5 million pigs every year, creates more waste than the entire city of Los Angeles. And this is just one farm. Each year, the nation’s factory farms, collectively produce 2 billion tons of manure, a substance that’s rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the country’s top 10 pollutants. And that’s not even counting the methane gas released by cows, pigs and poultry (which contributes to the greenhouse effect); the ammonia gases from urine; poison gases that emanate from manure lagoons; toxic chemicals from pesticides; and exhaust from farm equipment used to raise feed for animals.

9. More Efficient
Right now, 72 percent of all grain produced in the United States is fed to animals raised for slaughter. It takes 15 pounds of feed to get one pound of meat. But if the grain were given directly to people, there’d be enough food to feed the entire planet. In addition, using land for animal agriculture is inefficient in terms of maximizing food production. According to the journal Soil and Water, one acre of land could produce 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, 40,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 pounds of carrots or just 250 pounds of beef.

10. Its The Right Thing To Do
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Albert Einstein

Did you know 22 million animals are slaughtered to support the American appetite for meat? Its a great feeling to finish a health meal knowing that no beings have suffered.


Justa Quickie

September 17, 2007

Was doing my daily tinternet snoop and came across this article/comment:

Dear Umbra,

I see that PETA’s latest campaign says that meat eating is the No. 1 cause of global warming, not SUVs. This statement may be manipulative and political, but — is it true?

J.
Helena, Mont.

Dearest J.,

I’ll bite.

 

The authors of the report offer a global perspective on the environmental impacts of the livestock sector. They expect global production of both milk and meat to more than double from 2001 to 2050, and they contextualize this growth as both nutritionally positive for undernourished humans and negative for — can we say overnourished persons, at risk for obesity, heart disease, etc. Humanity gets half its protein intake from livestock products, FYI. Oh, here’s an interesting global comparison: in 2003, people in India ate 5 kg (11 pounds) of meat per person, Americans 123 kg (271 pounds).Shallow digging on one People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals site quickly uncovered their excitement at a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Over 300 pages on livestock and the environment. It’s riveting and you too can download and read it.

The juicy eco-numbers in the report are that, “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” and, “the livestock sector is … responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.” Thus, the expected doubling of meat and milk production within 50 years clearly presents a challenge.

But as you can see, this is not the same as saying eating meat is the No. 1 contributor to global warming.

I think what you gathered from the PETA campaign is that it was worse to eat a steak than to drive your Excursion to the steakhouse. The FAO report does not address this particular comparison, since it is more focused on global policy changes and industrial practices than on personal shopping choices.

The report does detail the particular impacts animal agriculture has on various environmental categories. Global warming impacts derive from: fossil-fuel use in manufacturing fertilizer and in feed production, on-farm fuel use, forests harvested or burned to make pasture, methane emissions from ruminant digestion and from manure, transportation of products and supplies, and processing. The authors prioritize land use and land degradation as areas for improvement for carbon emissions, through techniques such as agricultural intensification (e.g., intensive rotational grazing), conservation tillage, and erosion reduction. Methane and nitrous oxides, lesser but more powerful greenhouse gases, are a big problem with livestock; here, the authors recommend improving manure management and changing animals’ diets.

How about changing our own diet, with this new piece of global information? That is the basic aim of the campaign by PETA and others, and in theory I support it. I extrapolate that Gristies, who have recreational or employment-based computer access, belong to the group of people who have a choice in the matter. Basically our goals should be the same as always: reduce or eliminate animal products in our diets. Particularly we should look to reduce or eliminate animal foods grown under environmentally disastrous farming techniques.

Two examples of environmentally disastrous techniques include the infamous confinement operations, and massive deforestation for pasture conversion (the Amazon being the poster child here). Those are two simpler systems to track. It’s harder to tell if the farm that raised your anonymous pork is over-applying nitrogen fertilizer. That’s why we like buying locally and/or reading labels such as organic. Of course, not eating meat at all gets you around these issues — and there’s no reason we can’t both eat less livestock and drive fewer miles.

Optimistically,
Umbra

Source

I added the Livestock’s Long Shadow document to the links section of the site.  It’s rather long but an excellent read as the above article / answer states.



Vegan

July 2, 2007

I decided last week to do the vegetarian thing, and it went fine but i found it way too easy.  So vegan it is.

Basically I wanted to challenge myself in a different way than I have done in the past.  I don’t have any moral or ethical reason for doing this, though I have to admit the more I read about it the more sense it makes.  Plus the food recipes I have been looking at all sound pretty tastey, my only limitation is haricot beans which I can’t eat due to an allergy.

Some of the things i have read like:

The Healthiest Diet of All

Vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters and live years longer than the general population. No argument, no dispute – these are the simple facts – although you’d be excused for having doubts if you rely on the daily press for your health info.

The better health statistics for vegetarians and vegans aren’t peripheral – a percentage point advantage here or there – but are quite profound. The usual argument put forward to explain these dramatic improvements in health – often by doctors with no nutritional training or by those with a vested interest in the meat industry – is that veggies are puritanical, non-drinking, non-smoking, self-denying, hair-shirt-wearing bores so no wonder they live longer. And who wants to be like that?!

Of course, all good scientific research makes allowances for the differences in people’s life-styles and only compares like with like. And it is this solid, reputable science that will be quoted throughout this guide, much of it obtained from the world’s most authoritative and prestigious health advisory bodies.

Why is diet so important? Well, if you live an average life span of about 72 years, you will scoff your way through an astonishing 30 tonnes of food. It’s the fuel that keeps you going and it’s the nutrients in food that make you what you are. Your heart beats on them, your muscles, kidneys and liver depend upon them. Food keeps you warm, repairs the bits of damage that inevitably occur and it even helps you think. Pretty important stuff is food – but not just any old food.

If you were to eat the same diet as a cat – lots of meat and dairy products and no fresh fruit and veg – you would die and probably quite quickly. Similarly, a cat would be unable to survive on the average vegetarian diet. The reason for the difference is that after millions of years of evolution, all animals have adapted to particular diets and environments. Meat contains no vitamin C so cats have the ability to synthesise it internally. We, on the other hand, are higher apes and have evolved to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, shoots, seeds, nuts and leaves – a diet rich in vitamin C – on a daily basis. Throughout our evolution there was an abundant supply of vitamin C in virtually everything we ate so our bodies have never had to manufacture it.

Those humans who lived in societies that relied heavily on animal products have paid a  high price for it. The Inuit (sometimes referred to as Eskimos) traditionally relied largely on meat and fish, obtaining their vitamin C from mosses in the stomachs of dead animals. They rarely lived beyond their early 30s. One major cause of death was bleeding of the brain – cerebral haemorrhage. One possible cause of this is the thinning of the blood – a well known property of fish oils (137).

“But chimps eat meat,” is the usual cry. Chimps’ eating habits have been closely studied over many years and the amount of meat they eat is minuscule – about the size of half-a-pea a day, mostly made up of insects. So little do they eat that their hands and nails, teeth and digestive tract are those of a strictly vegetarian – vegan – animal.

The genetic difference between a chimp and a human is only just over one per cent (138). They are our closest living relative; so close that we share the same haemoglobin (found in our red blood cells). Our digestive tract, hands and teeth are also very similar. Some people claim our teeth are those of a carnivore, which is obvious nonsense and a quick look inside the mouth of a cat or dog will show you why. Our teeth, with their predominantly flat surfaces, are designed to grind and crush tough vegetable matter and are incapable of eating meat unless it’s cooked first. And we haven’t got the canines of a killer – we’d all look like Dracula if we had! Human teeth are not designed for holding or killing prey and they certainly couldn’t bite through the hide of a cow, sheep or pig!

Why does all this matter? Because sensible eating is about distinguishing between healthy and potentially unhealthy foods – for us! Take cats, for instance. No matter how much meat they eat, no matter how fatty it is, their arteries don’t clog up. Ours, on the other hand, do and the damage can start as young as two or three years old. The result is high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes later in life. One in five men and one in six women die from coronary heart disease in the UK – the single most common cause of death. The risks factors for heart disease are almost all diet related – caused by animal products. And some people still claim we’re meant to eat meat!

Professor T. Colin Campbell, of Cornell University, organised a massive piece of dietary research called the China Health Study (see later) – one of the most important ever undertaken. When its findings were published he said: “We’re basically a vegetarian species and should be eating a wide variety of plant foods and minimising our intake of animal foods. Animal foods are not helpful and we need to get away from eating them.” (1)

It seems to make a lot of sense to me.  As does:

The Official Position

The world’s most important health advisory bodies are now in agreement – a balanced vegetarian diet can be one of the healthiest possible. And it seems the fewer animal products it contains such as milk and cheese, the healthier it is. In other words, the closer it is to being vegan, the healthier it becomes. These are some of the health statements that have been made over the past few years. We will expand on each of the terms used later in the guide.

1. The British Medical Association

The BMA was one of the first to distil the growing volume of research on diet and health in its 1986 report (2). It said:

“Vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, cancers and gallstones. Cholesterol levels tend to be lower in vegetarians.”

It went on to say that when meat eaters change to a vegetarian diet it can actually lower their cholesterol levels. It concluded by saying that vegetarians obtain all the minerals they need, that folate levels are higher and as a consequence it is a diet suitable for infants.

2. The China Health Study

The initial results of this combined Chinese-British-American study, which began in 1983, were announced in 1989 (3). It was a massive piece of work which looked at the health and eating habits of 6,500 real people in real life situations. Its conclusions were accurately summed up in a New York Times headline on 8 May, 1990: “Huge Study of Diet Indicts Fat and Meat”. In short, it found that the greatest single influence on the growth of degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes was the amount of animal fat and animal protein eaten – the more you eat, the greater your risk. It highlighted some extraordinary dietary differences between affluent and not so affluent societies. For example, Chinese people are long living yet eat one-third less protein than Americans and only seven per cent of it comes from animal foods compared to Americans’ 70 per cent. Past dietary advice would probably have cheered this as a good thing but the study found the opposite. ‘Animal protein itself raises the risks of cancer and heart disease.’
These are the two biggest killers in the West but there are others, such as diabetes, strokes, obesity and high blood pressure, which are clearly associated with the West’s affluent lifestyle. They are referred to by the general name of degenerative diseases and the China Health Study found that they increased alarmingly as people changed from a more simple, predominantly vegetarian or vegan diet, to a Western diet obsessed with meat and dairy products.

The study also found that the West’s preoccupation with promoting meat as the best source of iron was wrong. The Chinese diet was predominantly vegetarian and yet adults consumed twice as much iron as an American adult. The Chinese diet also contained three times more fibre than a US diet but there was no evidence that these high levels interfered with absorption of iron or other essential minerals.

The conclusions were unequivocal – that a plant-based diet is more likely to promote good health and reduce the risk of degenerative diseases.

3. The World Health Organisation (WHO)

Next came an even more detailed report from the WHO in 1991. It was interpreted by The Daily Mail newspaper as a call for the world to go vegetarian – stating forthrightly that a diet rich in animal products promotes heart disease, cancer and several other diseases. It confirmed the BMA’s and China Health Study’s list of degenerative diseases and added others – diabetes, strokes and osteoporosis. And it also flagged up kidney impairment with high protein, meat-rich diets.

It said that diets associated with increases in chronic diseases are those rich in sugar, meat and other animal products, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and added: “If such trends continue, the end of [the 20th] century will see cardiovascular (heart) disease and cancer established as major health problems in every country in the world.” And, of course, its predictions have been proved correct.
But it went even further and condemned the years of public urgings by governments to eat animal products. It went on to say that in future: “Policies should be geared to the growing of plant foods, including vegetables and fruits, and to limiting the promotion of fat containing products.” If anything, the opposite has happened.

The large quantities of cheap meat, which have adversely affected health, are only available because of intensive, factory farming and the WHO also had plenty to say about that:

“Farming policies which do not rely on intensive animal production systems would reduce the world demand for cereals. Use of land could be reappraised since cereal consumption by the population is much more efficient and cheaper than dedicating large areas to growing feed for meat production and dairying.” That advice has also been ignored.

In fact, as development takes place in previously undeveloped countries there is a shift towards a more affluent diet, the report says. As a consequence, there is a dramatic increase in the incidence of diet-related diseases.

April 2003 saw the long awaited publication of the update to this 1991 WHO report. If you analyse the 2003 version it takes the same overall view as the previous report. It shows that the worldwide dietary trend towards high saturated fat and refined carbohydrate foods, together with sedentary lifestyles are the principal causes of degenerative diseases such as heart disease and obesity.

However the championing of plant-based diets as the way forward for health – which dominated the first report – has been much watered down. It is now common knowledge that the food industry has infiltrated the WHO since its 1991 report. It would be naïve not to suspect that the meat and dairy industry, which exerts such enormous political and economical clout, has not also been at work behind the scenes of this 2003 WHO report (10).

4. The EPIC Study

In 1992 the largest ever study of diet and health was initiated – the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition – EPIC for short. More than half a million people have been studied in 10 European countries, including the UK. EPIC is what is known as a prospective study where the diets of recruits are recorded and their health is tracked over the coming years to try and establish any links with the foods eaten and subsequent health outcomes. There are two EPIC centres in the UK, at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. EPIC-Oxford includes a total of around 65,000 participants of whom around half do not consume meat, and around 2,500 are vegans. On-going analysis of the results from EPIC studies continue to provide insights into what foods protect health and what foods are harmful to health.

What is clear so far is that non-meat diets tend to reduce blood pressure levels, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the incidence of obesity. Not surprisingly given these reductions in risk factors for heart disease, vegetarians die less from heart disease than comparable meat eaters. EPIC studies have also confirmed the importance of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as protection against the risk of an early death (139, 140). Preliminary results on the link between meat consumption and colorectal cancer suggest that frequent consumption of red meat such as beef, veal, pork and lamb is associated with a 20-40 per cent increase in colorectal cancer risk (36).

5. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

In 1995 the PCRM – a highly-respected US body which numbers the late Dr Benjamin Spock and William Roberts, editor of the American Journal of Cardiology, amongst its 5,000 doctors and scientists – issued a report to the US government (6). It confirmed the lower rate of disease amongst vegetarians and urged the government to recommend a vegetarian diet to US citizens. Until then, the US Dietary Guidelines had never made any mention of vegetarianism. The following year they did so for the first time and the section began:

“…vegetarians enjoy excellent health: Vegetarian diets are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines and can meet the Recommended Daily Allowances for nutrients. Protein is not limited in vegetarian diets …” (7).

The PCRM report reviewed over 100 pieces of published work from across the world and was in no doubt about what we should be eating: “The scientific literature clearly supports the use of vegetables, fruits, legumes (peas, beans, chick peas – pulses) and grains as staples. Meats, dairy products and added vegetable oils should be considered optional.” It was another clear and unequivocal statement, backed by unimpeachable science, that humans do not need to eat meat and are healthier for not doing so.

6. American Dietetic Association (ADA)

The ADA is probably one of the most respected health bodies in the world and in its most recent report on vegetarianism, has thrown its weight firmly behind meat-free diets, saying they are effective in avoiding or even curing some of the world’s most deadly diseases. Heart disease, strokes, some cancers and diabetes can all be effectively treated by prescribing a vegetarian diet, it says.

The ADA spells out the reason for this by saying that vegetarian diets offer disease protection benefits because of their lower saturated fat and cholesterol content as well as their higher fibre intakes. The ADA also make clear the fact that vegetarian diets can provide all the vitamins, minerals, protein and energy the body needs and provide for all stages of the life cycle including pregnancy and infancy (8).

I can’t really fault any of that, and I do like a new challenge.  I’m going to print out a list of recipes over the next few days so I can sample what my new diet has to offer.  (No nut roasts though, I learned that the hard way tonight heh)

I don’t really know how long I’ll continue with this but, as with everything, time will tell.

These are some of the things I intend to sample: Menu 

Right, if you managed to read all that I salute you!

“I was dead for billions of years before I was born, and it never inconvenienced me in the slightest”

Mark Twain

“Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.”

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870)