“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”~ Albert Einstein
(VEGAN/VEGETARIAN LIVING) Want to make a positive change in your life during lent? Give up a meat-based diet and go vegetarian, or better still, vegan. Here are 15 powerful reasons you’re benefitting yourself, the planet, and animals with this plant-based diet.
For Your Health
1. You will live longer.
Vegetarians live about seven years longer – and vegans live about 15 years longer – than meat eaters, according to a large study by Loma Linda University. This phenomenal fact is echoed in multiple huge studies. In fact, the findings on vegetarian and vegan longevity are confirmed by the world’s largest population study on diet and health ever done. The comprehensive China Health Project study found that people who eat the least amount of fat and animal products have the lowest risks of cancer, heart attack and other chronic degenerative diseases.
Plus, a British study that tracked 6,000 vegetarians and 5,000 meat eaters for 12 years found that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to die from cancer during that time and 20 percent less likely to die from other diseases.
So much for the old-fashioned notion that we need meat to be healthy. Fact is, the opposite is true. If the bonanza of spending many more years enjoying life with loved ones isn’t enough to leave animals off the dinner plate, here are 14 more facts to ponder.
2. You’ll reduce your risk of cancer – a lot.
Cancer isn’t just about its nasty ability to cut life short. While survival rates for some forms of cancer improve, the disease and its treatment is still a robber of quality of life. Cancer is definitely best avoided – and giving up meat can help, big time.
A study in the International Journal of Cancer concluded that there’s a strong correlation between red meat and breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute found that women who eat meat every day are nearly four times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don’t. Conversely, women who consume at least one serving of vegetables per day reduce their risk of breast cancer by 20-30 percent, according to the Harvard Nurses Health Study.
Further, the German Cancer Research Center suggests this is because vegetarians’ immune systems are more effective at killing off tumor cells than meat eaters.’ Research has also found that a plant-based diet helps protect against prostate, colon and skin cancers. This horrible disease claims the lives of half a million Americans every year. By going vegetarian, we can help tip the scales in our healthy favor.
3. Your heart will be much healthier.
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, claiming the lives of approximately 650,000 Americans every year. Unsurprisingly, the typical American diet , which is laden with saturated fat and cholesterol from animal foods like meat and dairy, is largely to blame.
Today, the average American male eating an “All-American” meat-based diet has a 50% chance of dying from heart disease. His risk drops to 15% if he cuts out meat and plummets to only 4% if he goes vegan and cuts out meat, dairy and eggs. Why this heart-cleansing magic? Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidant nutrients that protect the heart and its arteries. Plus, produce contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. Incidentally, cholesterol levels for vegetarians are 14 percent lower than those who eat meat.
Whether you’re looking to slim down or simply maintain a healthy weight, a plant-based diet can be your best ally. According to studies conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, vegetarians have a body weight that’s 3– 20 percent lower than meat-eaters. Obesity is relatively rare among vegetarians, ranging from 0 – 6 percent. That’s significantly lower than the American average, with a staggering 34% weighing in as obese.
5. You’ll free yourself of harmful antibiotics and hormones.
The animals on factory farms are frequently sick. This isn’t surprising given that they’re raised in filthy environments and fed diets inconsistent with their biological needs, such as with corn-fed cattle (cows are ruminants who are meant to digest grasses, not high-calorie grains). Because they are perpetually sick, these animals are routinely given antibiotics as both a reactive and preventative measure.
This is bad news for the people who consume their flesh. The antibiotics damage naturally occurring bacteria in the body, making humans more susceptible to disease. To present an even more frightening scenario, bacteria that’s routinely exposed to antibiotics eventually mutates to resist antibiotics entirely, which prevents their human host from being cured by certain medicines.
Also, animals in conventional factory farms are regularly pumped full of hormones to enlarge their edible parts. While there is much debate in the United States over the true health implications of consuming these hormones (the US has a massive beef industry, and powerful political lobbies have long blocked the exposure of substantiative literature on the subject), the European Union has declared them unsafe. In fact, the EU bans the importation of meat from animals raised in America. European studies show a correlation between hormones in red meat and prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers. These hormones have also been linked to early onset puberty, which later in life increases the risk for all three of these cancers.
6. You’ll pump up your financial health.
How about a stack of green hundred-dollar bills as an incentive to go veg? Replacing meat, chicken and fish with vegetables and fruits is estimated to cut food bills by an average of $4,000 a year. Over time, that’s an astounding benefit– it’s a robust savings account or a game-changing college or retirement fund. Or a helluva vacation every year.
For the Planet
7. Meat hugely contributes to global warming.
According to a United Nations report, eating meat causes almost 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. Methane, a naturally occurring greenhouse gas, is one of the nastiest culprits of global warming; it traps 21 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide.
The methane emitted by livestock (raised for human consumption) is responsible for 19 percent of total global methane emissions. For instance, Circle 4 Farms, the world’s largest producer of pork with 1.2 million hogs raised and killed each year, creates more pollution than the entire city of Los Angeles.
8. Meat depletes oxygen.
Not only is air being polluted, but our very air supply is jeopardized by the meat industry. Acres upon acres of crucial rainforest is slashed every day to make room for cattle grazing. These pristine forests are considered the “lungs of the planet,” allowing every air-breathing being to replenish their oxygen supply. If you breathe air, you’ve got skin in the game. It’s a potentially suffocating reality.
9. Vegans save tons of water, literally.
Water fit for drinking is not a luxury – it is a necessity, and much of it is wasted through meat production. According to the Cattlemen’s Association (the very people supporting meat consumption), it takes 441 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. An independent source at the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at Michigan State University claims that it actually requires about 2,500 gallons of water for just one pound of beef.
Consider, too, that a study by the Senate Agriculture Committee found that 60 percent of American waterways were polluted, and the major reason is animal agriculture. As vegan activist and actress Alicia Silverstone said in her book, The Kind Life, “One 16-ounce steak uses the amount of water you need for six months of showers! Holy cow!”
10. Fishing is killing our oceans.
Fishing doesn’t just kill fish. Whales, dolphins, turtles, seals, and other wildlife frequently fall victim to the excesses perpetuated by trawling. Trawling, the most common method of modern fishing, essentially consists of a giant net being spread upon the ocean floor. In these nets, excesses of fish are caught, as well as these unintentional “bycatches,” most of whom die terrible deaths if they’re aren’t lucky enough to be thrown back.
Mankind’s massive appetite for fish is depleting our ocean’s resources faster than they can be replenished. Overfishing practices have not only endangered populations of fish that humans commonly eat, but have killed off animals towards the top of the food chain, thus upsetting the balance of entire ecosystems. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation expects fish catches to drop by 70,000 tons per year (around 35%) by 2050 due to recent overfishing.
Fish farming or ‘aquaculture’ is having a similarly devastating effect, due to the need to catch masses of fish from the oceans to feed captive fish in farmed enclosures. Despite the persuasive power of the seafood lobby in touting fish’s benefits, forgoing seafood is the healthiest choice for our oceans.
11. Factory farming is cruel.
Animal activist Bruce Freidrich summed up the realities of our farming situation perfectly: “The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems.
These animals will never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything else that is natural and important to them. They won’t even get to feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded on trucks bound for slaughter.”
The reality of factory farming is sad and gruesome, wrought with exploitation and cruelty. Industry has produced the conceit of “free range,” but even these terms aimed at making us feel better are only marginally better, thanks to absurdly lax regulations in “free range” and “organic” specifications.
In the words of Paul McCartney, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian.”
12. Animals have emotions and the capacity to suffer.
Farm animals like pigs, sheep, cows and chickens possess the same capacity to experience and express pain as cats, dogs, and people do. Yet farm animals, who endure tortuous daily cruelty, are denied the legal protection of animal cruelty laws reserved for animals we more commonly perceive as pets. This includes painful surgical mutilations like de-beaking without pain relief and ,in most cases, extreme and unnatural overcrowding and confinement.
By going vegan, we as consumers possess the power to radically alter the system. In a cash-based society, we vote with our dollars. Simply put: Less meat is consumed means fewer animals suffer and are killed in service of our dinner plates.
In the profound words of Mark Bekoff in his book The Emotional Lives of Animals: “Animals feel a wide range of emotions, including each of Darwin’s six universal emotions: anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise.
If we can observe some of these emotions better than others, this probably has more to do with the subtlety of certain feelings than with the expressiveness of animals. For when animals are happy, they feel true Happiness with a capital H and when sad, they experience Grief with a capital G. Indeed, when we pay attention, animals display a mindful presence, unfiltered emotions, and a zest for life.”
13. A pig is smarter than your dog.
Pigs, cursed by folklore as being “dirty,” are actually friendly, intelligent animals. They can be trained to respond to voice commands, and research at the University of Bristol confirmed that they possess long-term memories and the ability to think through complex situations.
Studies have also suggested that pigs, some of the most commonly consumed “farm animals,” are more intelligent than dogs and in fact, certainly more so than three-year-old children.
Would you eat your dog? What logic is there to eating any flesh, really?
14. A life of compassion feels good.
To be vegan is to be free. Without the emotional and physical burdens that come with flesh consumption, you can face life, and the animals in it, with a clear conscience and sense of moral purpose. You can serve as a positive role model for your children. “If you set a good example and feed your children good food, chances are they’ll live a longer and healthier life,” says Christine Beard, a certified nutrition educator and author of Become a Vegetarian in 5 Easy Steps (McBooks Press, 1997). “You’re also providing a market for vegetarian products and making it more likely that they’ll be available for the children.”
15. You will be a lifesaver.
Going vegan can be a challenge if you’re accustomed to consuming lots of meat and dairy products, but with the advancements in meat and dairy substitutes, it’s never been easier. In every way, it is absolutely worth it. There is nothing like the health, environmental, and moral benefits of living a clean, compassionate life.
Plus, your goodwill actually makes a significant difference in terms of animal slaughter.
The average meat-eater consumes approximately 100 animals every year; by forgoing meat, you save that many.
How awesome is that? Enough to make your day, every day.
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” -Anita Koddick
— Elizabeth Neville, exclusive to Global Animal