- Politics and Social Issues
Reasons to Become Vegetarian or Vegan
For a variety of reasons more and more people are choosing to cut down on or even remove animal products from their diets and life. This decision may be based on health concerns a person has or due to their views on environmental or animal rights issues. A well-chosen and varied plant based diet can be very healthy and contain all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrition the body needs. As well as being able to reduce the risks of disease and health issues such as heart disease and cancer.
Vegetarians do not eat any meat or products that are obtained as a result of an animal dying such as gelatine or animal rennet. They may however eat dairy products or eggs as these do not cause the death of the animals. Vegans abstain from any product of animal origin including eggs, milk, cheese, certain food colourings and other additives such as isinglass. Many vegans also do not eat honey. Generally the terms vegan and vegetarian apply to diet but people may also not buy or use products such as leather, suede, wool or any other item that contains ingredients derived from animal sources.
Increasingly people are choosing a plant based diet in order to increase or maintain their health and fitness. Research has shown that a well-balanced meat free diet has many health benefits. Some meats can be high in saturated fats and harmful cholesterol as well as possessing a risk of illness and diseases such as Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease being passed on to humans. Modern farmed animals may have been treated with medications such as
anti-biotics that may present a risk to human well-being when they are eaten. These drugs are used routinely in order to try to keep animals in good health even when they are kept in less than appropriate conditions. Farmed fish can be subject to the same treatments and even sea caught fish is no longer as healthy as in the past due to the pollution of the seas. On average vegetarians and vegans have a better height to weight ratio and are less likely to be obese so the risk of many health problems including heart disease, cancers, diabetes and varicose veins.
Following a plant based diet can help to reduce the risk of developing health issues such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression as well as helping to maintain a healthy weight. Even without great effort committing to a vegetarian or vegan diet excludes many unhealthy foods as well as the saturate fats of meat due to the fact that they contain animal products. These include items such as cake, chocolate, pastries, take away and fast foods and other highly processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats as well as containing any number of food additives, many of which have a dubious reputation. This factor alone contributes to better health and possibly weight loss. Much healthier and suitable alternatives can be made at home if you wish. For people who struggle with being underweight due to health issues or being naturally small a meat free diet can provide lots of healthy fats and nutrient dense foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados.
Animals can be subjected to a great amount of cruelty and suffering in the hands of the meat, dairy and egg industries so it is understandable that people may chose that they no longer wish to have a part in contributing to this. Although public awareness has led to some improvements, animals reared for the meat industry are often subject to living in cramped and filthy conditions where their health and well-being are negatively affected. Many are unable to perform natural behaviours such as dust bathing and foraging for their natural foods. Over the longer term they may develop serious health conditions and illness at worst die. Cows and chickens can be selectively bred in order to maximise the amount of eggs and milk they can produce which can put a strain on the animals and come with further health difficulties.
Another reason that people may decide to become vegetarian or vegan is to lessen their impact on the planet. The production of meat for food has a large and negative impact on the environment in a number of ways. Every year millions of hectares of rain forest are destroyed to provide cheap pasture land for beef cattle as well as space for cattle feed to be grown. Unfortunately the land does not remain productive pasture for long as so soon more trees need to be cut down. The rain forest provides oxygen for humans and animals to breathe and stay alive and is also the richest and oldest ecosystem present on earth. By cutting down the trees this unique environment is being lost and also risks the extinction of species of animals and plants before we have even discovered them. This includes many that are likely to be of benefit to humans.
Rearing such large numbers of animals also contributes to the problems of global warming and water and air pollution. The emissions that result from the animals themselves and also their manure produce around half the total CO2 emissions created by the Uk. Levels of ammonia can exceed safety levels on farms, particularly around battery farm buildings and in 1996 incidents of cattle slurry entering the water course and causing it to be polluted accounted for 10% of all cases of water pollution that year.
© 2014 Claire