I came across this page today highlighting 49 Reasons to be a Vegetarian and wished to address it point-by-point for the edification of readers who may be recovering vegetarians or who may be confused by the points discussed therein.
1. Conservation of Fossil fuel. It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of beef protein; 35 calories for 1 calorie of pork; 22 calories for 1 of poultry; but just 1 calorie of fossil fuel for 1 calorie of soybeans. By eating plant foods instead of animal foods, I help conserve our non-renewable sources of energy.
On the contrary, by eating a well-balanced and omnivorous diet one can rely on local foods to a greater degree thereby reducing the use of fossil fuel to transport food to your plate. Moreover, a local steak is more economically and environmentally sustainable than consuming soy-based meat substitutes trucked in from long distances.
2. Water Conservation. It takes 3 to 15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does plant protein. As a vegetarian I contribute to water conservation.
A cow or hog grazing on pasture with access to free-flowing water would require fewer water resources than fields that must be irrigated.
3. Efficient use of grains. It takes up to 16 pounds of soybeans and grains to produce 1 lb. of beef and 3 to 6 lbs. to produce 1 lb of turkey & egg. By eating grain foods directly, I make the food supply more efficient & that contributes to the environment.
Cows, hogs, turkeys, hens and most other animals harvested for food should not be fed grain- or soy-based diets; rather they should be fed on grass and pasture. When fed naturally, these animals require no soybeans.
4. Soil conservation. When grains & legumes are used more efficiently, our precious topsoil is automatically made more efficient in its use. We use less agricultural resources to provide for the same number of people.
This argument implies that grain-based foods can and should be grown everywhere; however, many ranch lands are not suited to the farming of grains and soybeans. By contrast, they are suitable for grazing. Moreover, holistic pasture management often leaves the top soil and native flora in better condition than prior to grazing and certainly in better condition than farming grains and legumes where native flora are largely lost.
5. Saving our forests. Tropical forests in Brazil and other tropic regions are destroyed daily, in part, to create more acreage to raise livestock. By not supporting the meat industry, I directly reduce the demand to pillage these irreplaceable treasures of nature. Since the forest land “filters” our air supply and contains botanical sources for new medicines, this destruction is irreversable.
No argument here: don’t buy your meat from Brazil, buy it or hunt it locally.
6. Asthetics. Decaying animal parts, whether in a freezer case or served in restaurants, can never be as asthetically pleasing to the senses as the same foods made from wholesome vegetable sources. Only habit can allow one not to perceive this: a change in diet makes this self evident.
I guess this is habit, but a nice seared steak that’s plenty red in the center looks good to me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
7. No deficiencies. There is no nutrient necessary for optimal human functioning which cannot be obtained from plant food.
This argument is patently false. Retinol or pre-formed Vitamin A can only be found in animal foods. Retinol is the most bio-available form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene, by contrast, is poorly metabolized into vitamin A. Likewise the critical nutrients DHA and EPA are only naturally found in animal foods (there are vegetarian, algae- and fungus-based versions of these nutrients that are the result of intense processing and manufacture).
8. High fat plus cholesterol. Animal foods are higher in fat than most plant foods, particularly saturated fats. Plants do not contain cholesterol.
Count this as one of the benefits of animal foods. Saturated fats and cholesterol are both important nutrients that nourished our ancestors and nourish us as well. Fat and cholesterol are particularly important for young children. In the last thirty years, overall fat consumption has decreased and carbohydrate consumption has increased; however along with a decrease in fat consumption, developed nations have seen an increase in obesity and other diseases.
9. “Carb” deficient. Meat is deficient in carbohydrates, particularly the starches which are so essential to proper health.
Absolutely true. That’s why we should eat an omnivorous diet; however, many traditional societies including the Inuit thrived on a diet comprised almost exclusively of animal foods and suffered no adverse health effects because of it. On the contrary, these populations were devoid of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
10. Vitamin deficient. Except for the b-complex, meat is largely deficient in vitamins.
This is patently false. Animal foods contain a wide variety of nutrients beyond the b-complex – particularly Vitamin A. Country pÃ¢tÃ© made from liver contains more IU of vitamin A than sweet potato or carrots; moreover, animal foods contain preformed vitamin A which is more bioavailable than the plant-based alternative beta-carotene. Animal foods are also a remarkably rich source of vitamin D which is only otherwise found in mushrooms – and then only in minute quantities.
11. Agricultural Chemicals. Being higher on the food chain, animal foods contain far higher concentrations of agricultural chemicals than plant foods, including pesticides, herbicides, etc.
Undoubtedly. Eating organic, pasture- and grass-fed animal foods minimizes or eliminates high concentrations of agricultural chemicals found in the animal fat. Rather than throw the baby out with the bath water; simply know your farmer and eat real food.
12. Exposure to livestock drugs. There are over 20,000 different drugs, including sterols, antibiotics, growth hormones and other veterinary drugs that are given to livestock animals. These drugs are consumed when animal foods are consumed. The dangers herein, in secondary consumption of antibiotics, are well documented.
There is absolutely a growing cause for concern the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. The solution is simple, though: eat naturally raised animals that haven’t been subject to livestock drugs, growth hormones and antibiotics.
13. Pathogenic Microorganisms. There are a host of bacteria and viruses, some quite dangerous, that are common to animals. When I eat meat, I eat the organisms in the meat. Micro-organisms are present in plant foods too, but their number and danger to human health is by no means comparable to that of those in meat.
Healthy animals are free from disease and, likewise, healthy people can fight off potential pathogens whether they’re found in animal or plant foods. Grass-fed cows are free from many of the viruses and bacteria that plague their factory farmed sisters so by consuming the meat and milk of naturally raised and well-cared-for animals you minimize risk. Moreover, plant foods are not without risk as indicated by spinach, peanut, tomato and a host of other recalls so it’s wise to know your source of both animal and plant foods.
14. Worms and other Parasites. Ditto on # 13!
Keep in mind that researchers on immunology are quickly discovering that worms play a role in the proper development of the immune system. However, as with other issues, know your farmer.
15. Shelf life differential. Plant foods last longer than animal foods. Try this experiment: Leave out a head of lettuce and a pound of hamburger for 1 day, which will make you sick?
Eat your foods fresh. And don’t be too concerned about leaving some animal foods out: milk turns to bonny clabber replete with probiotics and enzymes; eggs can stay good for month or longer at room temperature; cured meats and cheeses can also be kept at room temperature.
16. Organoleptic Indications of Pathenogens [sic]. Plant foods give tell-tale signs of “going bad”. Ever hear of someone getting sick from “bad broccoli”?
This isn’t exclusive to plant foods. All foods give indicators of whether or not they’ve gone bad, and while I certainly haven’t heard of someone getting sick from “bad broccoli” I’ve likewise never heard of someone getting sick from pastured or grassfed meats. I have, however, heard of people being sickened by industrial spinach, tomatoes, melons and peanuts.
17. Heart Disease. Meat eating increases the risk of heart disease, this country’s #1 killer. The correlation is an epidemiological fact.
That correlation is based on faulty research. A reexamination of key studies that contributed their findings to the fat hypothesis indicates that it is refined carbohydrates, not meat, that contribute to heart disease.
18. Cancer prevention. Of all the natural cancer prevention substances found: vitamin C, B-17, hydroquionenes, beta carotene, NDGA, – none has been found to be animal derived. Yet most meats, when cooked, produce an array of benzenes and other carcinogenic compounds. Cancer is infinitely easier to prevent than cure. Soybeans contain protease inhibitor, a powerful anticancer compound. You won’t find it in useful quantities in animal based food.
Vitamin C is found in meat – particularly variety meats and offal; however, if you’re like me and don’t particularly care for variety meat you should eat a well-balanced diet inclusive of nutrient-dense plant foods. Beta carotene is also found along with retinol in animal foods particularly butterfat from grass-fed cows and the fat of pastured chickens and poultry. Moreover, nutrients that contribute to the fight against cancer extend beyond vitamin C, laetrile (vitamin b17) and the others mentioned. For instance, CLA is noted as a very powerful anticarcinogen but this nutrient is found exclusively in animal foods.
19. Disease Inducing. The correlation between meat consumption and a wide range of degenerative diseases is well founded and includes…..
Let’s approach these one by one.
Anthropological evidence indicates that our hunter-gatherer ancestors who consumed much more meat than we routinely consume today did not suffer from osteoporosis. Meat is not to blame; rather, a diet high in refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour do contribute to osteoporosis. Such a diet can be omnivorous or vegetarian.
21. Kidney Stones and Gallstones
Some studies do implicate meat eating in the formation of kidney stones and gallstones; however, this is not the case for a well-rounded diet inclusive of both animal and plant foods. Moreover, inadequate intake of water and over intake of refined sugar and salts contribute to their formation which can occur in either a vegetarian or omnivorous diet. Additionally, oxalates which are naturally present only in plant foods like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and even strawberries can interfere with proper absorption of calcium and contribute to the formation of stones in the kidney and gallbladder.
As with osteoporosis, diabetes is a modern disease that was absent in our meat-consuming hunter gatherer ancestors. Were meat to cause diabetes, anthropological evidence would indiacte that early humans suffered from the condition. Meat is not the culprit; rather, refined carbohydrates and A1 beta casein are the known contributors to this disease.
23. Multiple Sclerosis
There are many contributors to multiple sclerosis; however, there’s some thought that diet plays a role in its development. Without a doubt, diet plays a role in other autoimmune diseases. Studies indicate that milk plays a role in the development of the disease; however, more recent research implicates A1 beta casein – not milk as a whole or even A2 beta casein. By eating dairy products from heritage breeds like jersey and guernsey cows as well as goats and sheep, you reduce or eliminate exposure to A1 beta casein. Furthermore, evidence indicates that antinutrients found in grains limit the absorption of critical nutrients in the digestive tract the result of a diet that his high in grain – like a vegetarian diet – is poor nutrient absorption. A poorly nourished person is more prone to disease including autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
The assumption that consuming animal foods contributes the development of arthritis is faulty. Indeed, current research implicates grains in the formation of arthritis, not meat. You see, the inflammation caused by the consumption of grains creates an immune system response. The immune system begins attacking the synovial tissue in the joints contributing to joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis and more inflammation. (Read more at 10 Reasons to Go Grain-free.)
25. Gum disease
False. Gum disease is not caused by meat or other animal food consumption. Research indicates that a diet that reduces the risk of diabetes reduces the risk of gum disease. A whole foods diet, inclusive of animal foods, with a wary eye for excessive carbohydrate consumption reduces the risk – not a vegetarian one. Moreover, properly preparing grains or avoiding them entirely will increase dental health due to neutralization of antinutrients like phytic acid which contribute to dental caries.
26. Acne. Aggravated by animal food.
Wrong again. Grain and refined carbohydrate consumption coupled with lack of fat soluble vitamins contribute to acne. A diet heavy in grains, refined carbohydrates and simple sugars raises insulin levels and makes your body produce more insulin-like growth factor. A cascade of hormones follows this surge of IGF-1 and those male hormones make your sebaceous glands produce more oil – creating an environment that promotes the growth of bacteria and acne ensues.
27. Obesity. Studies confirm that vegetarians tend to be thinner than meat eaters. Obesity is considered by doctors to be a disease within itself.
This statement is misleading. Indeed, when a vegetarian lifestyle is compared to the standard American diet – vegetarians do have lower BMIs than meat eaters; however, when vegetarians are compared to whole foods omnivores the incidence of obesity is the same. No one should be eating the standard American diet, but the SAD is not the diet of all omnivores.
28. Intestinal Toxemia. The condition of the intestinal flora is critical to overall health. Animal products putrefy the colon.
No doubt I agree that intestinal flora are critical to health (please check my post about the Benefits of Fermented Food) and I urge everyone to make pro- and pre-biotic foods a cornerstone of their diets; however the notion that animal foods putrefy the colon is terribly outdated and hails to 19th century health food lore (think Road to Wellville). Keep in mind that many animal foods like yogurt, kefir, raw milk and cream actually contribute beneficially to intestinal health.
29. Transit time. Wholesome food travels quickly through the “G.I” tract, leaving little time to spoil and incite disease within the body.
Utter silliness. Animal foods don’t spoil in the body and neither do plant foods. Digestion first begins the moment you put food in your mouth – through saliva.
30. Fiber deficient. Fiber absorbs unwanted, excess fats; cleans the intestines; provides bulk and aids in peristalsis. Plant food is high in fiber content; meat, poultry and dairy products have none.
By all means, don’t be a carnivore – be an omnivore. You can get plenty of fiber through the addition of fruits and vegetables while also including animal foods in the diet.
31. Body wastes. Food from animals contain their waste, including adrenaline, uric and lactic acid, etc., Before adding ketchup, the biggest contributors to the “flavor profile” of a hamburger are the leftover blood and urine.
This is a vegetarian scare tactic. Regardless, a burger tastes great.
32. Excess protein. The average American eats 400% of the RDA for protein. This causes excess nitrogen in the blood that creates a host of long-term health problems.
Readers should keep in mind that the RDA is the minimum recommended levels, not the maximum recommended levels. The RDA keeps you barely above deficiency, not at optimal health. That’s how it was designed. We should, indeed, eat protein and other nutrients in excess of the daily RDA.
33. Longevity. To increase ones risk of getting degenerative disease means decreasing ones chance to live a naturally long healthy life. Huzas [sic] and other peoples with large centenarian populations maintain lifestyles that are relatively meat free.
This is a misconception. Among several long-lived populations, the Hunzas are the only population with limited animal food consumption but they are not vegetarians; rather, they are omnivorous. Other long-lived populations consumed foods rich in animal fats and protein as well as vegetables and probiotic-dense foods. Okinawans, for example, eat a diet rich in pork fat and are among the most long-lived populations in the world. Moreover, long-lived populations tend to lead active lifestyles. For more information about traditional diets of long-lived populations please check out Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine.
34. Well Being. I just feel better since “giving up” meat and becoming vegetarian.
I certainly can’t argue with the original author about his or her well-being, but I will say this: I am a former vegan who was plagued with health problems including thyroid disease, autoimmune disease and amenorrhea. As a vegan, I ate an impeccably good diet based on whole foods and my health suffered. After moving to traditional foods, I’ve regained my periods; my skin looks better; my hair looks better; my moods are better and I have no thyroid problems.
35. Health care costs. Being healthier on a vegetarian diet means spending less on health care.
I agree that eating well reduces health care costs. Indeed, my husband and I joke that our diet is our health insurance. I will tell you this: I am sick less often on a traditional foods, omnivorous diet than when I was vegetarian. As I have healed from many diseases I suffered from as a vegetarian, I spend considerably less on health care now than I did then.
36. Food costs. Vegetarian foods tend to cost less than meat based items.
This is, generally, true. A soy burger will cost you less than a grassfed beef burger; however, you shouldn’t make such critical decisions on personal finances alone. Besides, with proper kitchen management you can make sure cut corners on waste, not on food quality. (See my post on the Top 10 Nutritional Powerhouses that Won’t Break the Bank).
37. Love of animals. I love animals as I love myself. I have no desire to kill them or cause them harm.
I love animals too and that’s why I value holistic farm management and humane treatment of farm animals. I also love myself and that’s why I give my body the best nutrition possible – and that nutrition is based on the omnivorous diet that nourished our ancestors.
38. Stance against Factory Farming.. I cannot make a statement against factory farming if I myself eat animals.
I abhor factory farming and that is why I actively support farmers and ranchers who eschew those cost-cutting food production methods in favor of natural and humane herd management.
39. Respect for Sentient Life. I show gratitude to my Creator(s?) by eating as low on the food chain as possible.
I respect the way I was created by nurturing my body on the foods that nourished my ancestors from their early hunter gather days. In this way, I show respect for how I was created.
40. “Economic Vote”. I show support of the meat industry and the way they operate when I purchase and use their products.
Me too! By purchasing farmer-direct, my money stays local and out of the hands of middlemen and cost-cutting business men who operate repugnant factory farms and feedlots.
41. Small sacrifice The sacrifice I make is nothing compared to the animals, its life.
By sacrificing a vegetarian diet and delving into traditional foods, I’m respecting the nature’s course rather than disrupting it. Predation is normal and natural and exactly how we evolved.
42. Natural diet. Our hands, teeth, feet, intestinal tract…even our body chemistry is that of an herbivore.
Patently false. We are natural omnivores. Our intestinal tract is medium-long, not short like a carnivore and not extremely long like an herbivore. We do not have a cecum like an herbivore, nor multiple stomachs like a ruminant. Our eyes are forward-facing like a predator, not on the sides of our head like an herbivore. Anthropological evidence indicates that humans are omnivores and always have been.
43. Reciprocity. If I partake in the slaughter of animals, I will have to repay my contribution to that act.
I’m not here to argue new age philosophy – just the facts; however, I don’t believe in karmic retribution for a natural act that has nourished humans for thousands upon thousands of years.
44. “Protecting the Temple”. “Whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and soul” (E.G. White)
I am not a Seventh Day Adventist and I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from consuming a diet prescribed to them by their god; however, I recognize that what affects the body affects the mind and soul and that’s why I respect my nature: that of a natural omnivore as all humans are.
45. I believe in nonviolence. Slaughter isn’t.
I believe in nonviolence, but I also respect nature and human evolution.
46. World Peace. There can never be peace among men while men are declaring war on other highly developed life forms.
Well … when vegetarians create peace among men, I’ll sidle right up to the tofu and lentil line and give up meat for good.
47. Clear conscience. I know what I’m doing is right. I feel good inside about my decision to remain “meatless”
Indeed, my conscience is clear about consuming a natural, healthful diet that nourishes me as well as it nourished my ancestors.
48. Example. To live this way is to protect the underlying values of those around me.
Indeed, to live this way I am able to share my knowledge with my friends, family and readers for the betterment of their health and wellness.
49. Easy substitutes. There are vegetable based substitutes for every meat product imaginable.
Vegetable-based substitutes for animal foods are nutritionally inferior and often make use of industrial soy which is bad for health for its contribution to low mineral absorption and increased rates of autoimmune disease. Furthermore, meat substitutes comprised of industrial soy, grain and other foods is bad for the environment as it must be trucked from the field to various manufacturers, packaged and then distributed to consumers.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.