I have been a vegetarian for at least 8 years. At least twice a year, I get asked “so you don’t eat cheese or eggs either?” so to start this post, we’re just going to do a quick and easy definition/vocabulary session.
A vegetarian by definition does not consume any meat, whether it be white meat, red meat, or fish. Vegetarianism is branched out into three separate categories: vegetarian, pollotarian, and pescatarian. Pollotarians consume only white meat, like chicken and turkey, while pescatarians consume fish as their only meat source.
On the other hand, a vegan is someone who does not eat or use animal products at all. These are the people who take a step beyond eliminating meat from their diet and also excludes dairy, eggs, gelatin, etc. from their daily food consumption.
The second most-asked question I receive is “so you only eat salads all the time, right?” Absolutely wrong. While I do enjoy a good salad, a strictly vegetable salad is not a good way to consume protein. Alternate protein sources normally include beans, nuts, some yogurts, quinoa, eggs, and soy. Every year that I have been a vegetarian, my iron levels and bloodwork turn out perfect. This means that I am not missing out on nutrients, which is a super common misconception that comes with a vegetarian diet. Certain Google searches bring up images of emaciated people with titles like “Why Vegetarianism is Bad for You”, but in truth, it is only bad for you if you cannot properly manage your diet. Being a vegetarian does not mean laying around eating just potato chips; you have to actively do research and find alternative protein sources and continue to balance what you eat, just without the hot dogs.
That being said, converting to vegetarianism does not always have to be an expensive or difficult process. Two of the substitutions I’ve personally found to be better than the originals are replacing meat in lasagna with spinach, and bean burgers for hamburgers. Studies continue proving that red meat is not beneficial for humans, and the more research is done the more that burger, that steak, that bacon – is linked to health defects like heart disease and high cholesterol. Full conversions are not always necessary either; I know plenty of people who do a set number of meat-less/vegetarian meals a week. But there is a cause greater than your personal health for eliminating meat: industrial agriculture.
Raising cows, pigs, even chickens requires so much land, so much food, so much water, and creates so much waste that it is considered one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The planet’s population goes up, food requirements go up, you can do the math from there. Studies have been done showing world hunger/starvation rates decreasing drastically if we took the grain and plants used to fatten up meat animals to feed people instead. Aside from the pretty blatant mistreatment of animals, think about the amount of waste they produce that goes into the air, ground, and water that the rest of us live with. Manure does not smell good in the first place, but when it gets tied to destroying the ozone, for me at least, there is all the more reason to decrease the amount of it in the air.
Humans are also tertiary consumers, which means we are higher up on the food chain than other organisms. It is also proven and a known fact in the scientific community that the higher up on the food chain you are, the less energy and nutrient content you actually get from your food. How do you solve that? Start eating more primary producers – aka: plants.
These are just the overall reasons and arguments that I find strongest in the argument for conversion to vegetarianism. I know there are people out there who won’t give up their bacon, and I’m not saying you have to entirely. Decreasing your meat consumption by a few days a week and finding ethical, local sources for your meat are two steps in the right direction. I’m not trying to shove my spinach down your throat – I am tossing it in with some facts and offering it to you as something to graze on and think about.
- All of the information presented in this post is fact compiled from personal yet credible research. Please comment to request source links for specific details and I will be more than happy to provide them.
- Here are some other articles I recommend that discuss vegetarianism:
- “Weekday Vegetarians” by TIME – http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2010180,00.html
- “Vegetarianism” by Kid’s Health – http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/vegetarianism.html
- “Digging a Vegetarian Diet” by the National Institutes of Health – https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jul2012/Feature1