EATING FOR LIFE
Vegetarianism has been a way of life for many people for centuries, and today nearly 20 million Americans are vegetarians; many more have greatly reduced their meat consumption. Recently, as the link between meat consumption and life-threatening illnesses has become more apparent, and as more people have become aware of the cruelties of meat production, vegetarianism has rapidly gained in popularity.
There is no nutritional need for humans to eat any animal products; all of our dietary needs, even as infants and children, are best supplied by an animal-free diet. Our evolutionary ancestors were, and our closest primate relatives are, vegetarians. Human teeth and intestines are designed for eating and digesting plant foods, so it is no wonder that our major health problems can be traced to meat consumption.
The consumption of animal products has been conclusively linked with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Cholesterol (found only in animal products) and animal fat clog arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. A vegetarian diet can prevent 97 percent of coronary occlusions. The rate of colon cancer is highest in regions where meat consumption is high and lowest where meat-eating is uncommon. A similar pattern is evident for breast, cervical, uterine, ovarian, prostate, and lung cancers.
Low-fat diets, particularly those without saturated fat, have been instrumental in allowing many diabetics to dispense with their pills, shots, and pumps. A study of more than 25,000 people over age 21 found that vegetarians have a much lower risk of getting diabetes than meat-eaters.
A South African study found not a single case of rheumatoid arthritis in a community of 800 people who ate no meat or dairy products. Another study found that a similar group that ate meat and other high-fat foods had almost four times the incidence of arthritis as those on a low-fat diet.
Osteoporosis, or bone loss due to mineral (particularly calcium) depletion, is not so much a result of insufficient calcium as it is a result of eating too much protein. A 1983 Michigan State University study found that by age 65, male vegetarians had an average measurable bone loss of 3 percent; male meat-eaters, 18 percent; female vegetarians, percent; female meat-eaters, 35 percent.
In addition to the problems associated with too much fat, cholesterol, and protein, consumers of animal products take in far greater amounts of residual agricultural chemicals, industrial pollutants, antibiotics, and hormones than do vegetarians. The absorption of antibiotics through meat-eating results in antibiotic-resistant strains of pneumonia, childhood meningitis, gonorrhea, salmonella, and other serious illnesses.
Approximately 9,000 Americans die annually from food-borne illness and an estimated 80 million others fall ill. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that up to 40 percent of the poultry sold in this country is infected with salmonella bacteria.
Meat contains 14 times as much pesticide residue as plant foods; dairy products, more than five times as many. Fish is another source of dangerous residues. The EPA estimates that fishes can accumulate up to nine million times the level of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs) found in the water in which they live. Ninety-five percent of human exposure to dioxin, a "probable" cause of cancer and other health risks, comes through meat, fish, and dairy consumption.(3)
Human beings must consider what impact our actions have on the lives of others. To limit moral consideration to humans only is no more logical or justifiable than limiting concern to white people only or to men only; speciesism, like racism and sexism, is wrong because all animals contribute to the ecosystem and are capable of suffering. We do not need to eat meat, drink cow's or goat's milk, or eat eggs to live. Because today's system of mass production of these "products" causes pain, distress, and ultimately death to the billions of animals from whom they are taken each year, we are ethically bound to renounce them.
More than four million acres of cropland are lost to erosion in the United States every year. Of this staggering topsoil loss, 85 percent is directly associated with livestock raising, i.e., over-grazing.
Throughout the world, forests are being destroyed to support the meat-eating habits of the "developed" nations. Between 1960 and 1985, nearly 40 percent of all Central American rain forests were destroyed to create pasture for beef cattle. The rain forests are the primary source of oxygen for the entire planet; the very survival of the Earth is linked to their survival. The forests also provide ingredients for many medicines used to treat and cure human illnesses, and these resources have yet to be explored for their full potential.
Much of the excrement from "food" animals (which amounts to 20 times as much fecal matter as human waste) flows unfiltered into our lakes and streams.
The production of one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. It takes less water to produce a year's worth of food for a pure vegetarian (a vegan; one who consumes no meat, eggs, or dairy products) than to produce one month's food for a meat-eater.
Raising animals for food is an extremely inefficient way to feed a growing human population. The U.S. livestock population consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than five times the entire U.S. population. One acre of pasture produces an average of 165 pounds of beef; the same acre can produce 20,000 pounds of potatoes.
If Americans reduced their meat consumption by only 10 percent, it would free 12 million tons of grain annually for human consumption. That alone would be enough to adequately feed each of the 60 million people who starve to death each year.
Be Healthy and Humane
When you consider the serious health risks of a meat- and dairy-based diet, the environmental devastation caused by animal agriculture, the huge waste of resources in a world faced with chronic human starvation, and the violence to and suffering of billions of animals kept cruelly confined on "factory farms," the switch to vegetarianism makes perfect sense.
Written by: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
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