Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Reasons to Become a Vegetarian

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Albert Einstein

 

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Let me establish right up front that I don’t consider myself a vegetarian. Neither did Einstein. I do eat meat – but not often. While it’s likely material for another post, I’ve found that some people are extremely judgmental of others who “violate” a self-proclaimed label. In 2007, Sarma Melngailis, an icon in the raw food community and co-founder of one of my favorite NYC restaurants, Pure Food and Wine reported that she’d consumed one small lamb meat ball. People were vicious with their criticism.  For some, she skidded off the raw food pinnacle where she’d been placed. Others, admired her honesty and although I don’t know if this is a change from 2007, in her blog, she specifies that by “raw”, she means totally honest.

So what then are the reasons for moving to a plant-based diet?

1. For religious reasons – From my research, it appears that the largest percentage of vegetarians maintain this diet plan due to their spiritual beliefs. A 2006 study showed that in India alone, the Hindu population contributes 399 million vegetarians. There are many other religious disciplines that incorporate a meat free diet.  The old testament which is widely read by both Christians and Jews tells the story of Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah who would eat only vegetables and water for 10 days and at the end of the 10 days, were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youth who ate the king’s rich food.

2. For better health – The consumption of animal protein and it’s saturated fat and cholesterol is associated with obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancers, diabetes and more. We’ve all heard this one before.

3. For better health – Fruits and vegetables have been found to contain a number of antioxidants that protect us against certain types of cancers and that can repair the body after stress and illness. In addition, they’re high in fiber which keeps our digestive systems toned and healthy.

4. Because it uses far less of the earth’s water resources. It takes 1,799 gallons of water to raise one pound of beef. One pound of chicken uses 468 gallons. Those are big numbers on a planet with a dwindling supply. Try wheat at 132 per pound, soybeans at 216 per pound or eat an orange which took 13 gallons to produce.

5. In order to reduce to the emission of green house gases.  Methane production is a normal part of the digestive cycle of animals. It can also be a by-product of manure depending on the method of manure management employed by a farm. When deposited naturally in a grassland setting, it produces little methane but when stored as slurry in factory farm operation, it  decomposes anaerobically and creates methane.

6. Because it’s kinder to animals. Many vegetarians believe that the breeding of livestock for food is inhumane. If you haven’t bought into this, just watch one of the pop food films like Food, Inc. and you’ll become a believer.

7. It’s more economical. Just take a quick survey of your next few grocery receipts. I’m confident that you’ll find that any animal products are by far, leading the way in your expenses. During tough economic times, eliminating meat or treating it as a side dish has pocketbook impact.

8. Your veggies haven’t taken antibiotics but you can’t say the same for animal protein. The use of antibiotics and hormones has become common place in factory farming. Animals are given low doses of antibiotics on a consistent basis while hormones cause them to grow bigger faster and are used to boost productivity. There are numerous sources that discuss the risks and implications of both – some, yet to be determined.

9. Because you can compost your food waste.  Scraps of fruit and vegetables including egg shells and coffee grounds are all easily compostable items which can be used to improve the quality of soil in your own garden. Meat and dairy items won’t do that for you.

10. We could feed the world.  In addition to the increased use of water, it takes 16 pounds of grain and soy to produce a single pound of beef. According to one source, an additional 60 million people could be fed with the agricultural land that would have grown livestock feed if Americans reduced their collective meat consumption by just 10 %. Of course that assumes a good distribution system and compassion. I think they’re both worth working towards.

Leave a comment

97 Comments

  1. Awesome list, Tammy!

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 13 years and feel GREAT. I’m satisified is better for me, better for the planet, and better for the animals I’d otherwise be consuming.

    I just had bloodwork done . . . no dietary deficiencies from excluding meat based proteins from my diet.

    I’m also a firm believer in applauding people for their “positive” choices, rather than chastising them for an occasional lapse.

    It’s what we do 90% of the time that matters, not whether we enjoy an occasional meatball. 8)

    Thanks so much for this post!

    Reply
    • Thanks Nancy. I’m with you on the 90%. We just need to show progress. Congrats on the bloodwork. I know your cholesterol must look amazing too.

      Reply
  2. Sally Mom

     /  September 18, 2010

    Wow! Tammy this was energetic and a feast to read. My thanks to you for putting this valuable information out to many and hopefully it will be read and passed on to many more.
    Most of us grew up with meat of some kind, as the main course.
    Western civilization. Studies have shown around the world, the attributes and health benifits to those cultures that are on a more vegetarian diet.
    Great Blog. My new favorite book to play with, “Vegan Fusion”.
    Recently I have been very busy helping people with cancer, transist to a rich vegetarian way. So many great books out there and great information.
    Thank you for keeping the information going and growing.
    Love,
    Sally

    Reply
  3. Wonderful post, Tammy. I had never heard that Einstein quote before. Very cool! And I like that, in number 10, you point out that we could feed the world by being vegetarians but this “assumes a good distribution system and compassion.”

    Reply
  4. Tammy – I’ve been inching in this direction – not there yet, but no longer eating mammals. The whole treatment of animals thing is a big trigger for me. It’s making my own choices harder and harder for me to accept – even though I tend to choose “non-industrial” meat processed by local famers. Still, the thought lingers. Thanks for another gentle push in the right direction.

    Reply
    • It makes perfect sense. Two things that help me the most are thinking about whether or not I could slaughter it myself and the whole “body is a temple” thing.

      Reply
  5. Wonderful thoughts, AgriGirl. Have you heard the term Flexitarian? It implies a vegetable-based diet with small amounts of meat for flavor and protein, not as the main feature. I like this idea a lot – it speaks to the future I envision where we have a better local food economy. I try to cook this way, and my mostly carnivorous husband likes it pretty well. It allows us to pay more for responsibly-raised meat and to stretch it pretty far. And it doesn’t exclude a mostly vegetarian diet. I was strongly influenced in the 70s by Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet, and it’s still a great way to think about how we eat.

    Reply
  6. John

     /  September 18, 2010

    And one reason not to become a vegetarian: BACON

    Reply
  7. Excellent post Tammy

    Reply
  8. Yeah, Tammy. Great post and totally excellent reasons for being vegetarian.

    I’m delighted that it’s easier and easier to be a vegetarian in the world of eateries. However, in one 5 star restaurant, in an unnamed major city in the world, I found that their definition of ‘vegetarian’ meant only pasta dishes.

    Since I eat Alkaline, I asked what they had besides pasta – which is on the acid side of my eating style. The waiter suggested I have the vegetables being served with the various entrees of the day. I agreed enthusiastically. I received a plateful of asparagus. That’s it. Nothing else.

    When I can, I also enjoy eating raw, especially since we have a chef on our island who can make any dish, only use raw veggies, and make it taste like the dish. EG – Lasagna, hamburgers, spaghetti, etc. He’s a magician.

    On the other hand, I’m with Nancy. 90% is a mighty fine show and it’s only my business if I make it 86%.

    Reply
    • I’m envious of your chef. I’ve tried raw a bit but if I wasn’t prepared, it was really hard. There is a center here when I live – the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center that does wonderful raw programs.

      Reply
  9. kjacobs729

     /  September 18, 2010

    Thanks for another thoughtful post. It will be a great, thorough-yet-concise resource to point people to when I get asked, “So, why don’t you eat meat?”

    Reply
  10. Another great article Tammy! Thank you for keeping us all so well-informed about these issues. I tell you, reading your blog is changing my perspective on some things. This a pretty convincing list, although I won’t be able to live without meat completely, I think maybe I can be a “mostly vegetarian,” lol.

    Reply
  11. Lisa H

     /  September 18, 2010

    Wonderful post, Tammy. Although my family is not vegetarian, we eat mostly vegetarian meals. As Chris Winters mentions above, it leaves us more room in the budget to eat responsibly-raised meats.

    Reply
  12. Never heard it argued so succinctly, Tammy:-) Thanks.

    Reply
  13. I love your T3 lists! Always well-informed and thought-provoking (and of course delightfully in line with my own views!).

    I always bookmark your lists to share with others who might need a little nudge. 🙂

    Reply
  14. I’m not a vegetarian, either (and probably never will be), but I do eat several vegetarian meals a week, and have several others in which meat is definitely in a supporting role. I think all of your reasons are really good, very well thought out. Thanks!

    Reply
  15. Thanks for assembling this great list—

    My consumption of meat has fallen away to very little, over the past few years, and it suits me. I can’t say that I will become a vegetarian, but who knows?

    Each and every one of your Top 10 reasons is important, the bottom line being

    Our planet simply cannot sustain it.

    Reply
  16. I would go vegetarian in a heartbeat if I could talk the rest of my family into it. Besides all the reasons you listed, I just really don’t care for meat much.

    Reply
    • Sounds like one of the easy ways to convert. I have found over time that I create a vegetarian meal and then let them grill something to go along with it.

      Reply
  17. So agree with your words. I also love your last post on talking with the animals! blessings,Kathleen

    Reply
  18. Great post Tammy, and I’d been thinking about vegetarianism from a cultural perspective. Like you we are much more vegetarian than meat eaters, primarily because we feel healthier, but aside from religious reasons, we could agree with many items down the list. I grew up in the Midwest and my uncles were farmers, for us it was not a meal without a protein and a starch so thinking about cooking vegetarian was a huge shift for me. I have to say I live the less reliance on meat just fine.

    If you’ve never read the book Cooking With Fire, its rather harsh to the raw food movement, but a very interesting read none-the-less.

    Reply
  19. Good list of reasons. Whatever the personal reason, it’s ultimately the healthiest diet. Eating meat never sat quite well with me which is why it was an easy switch. Besides, I just love animals 🙂

    Reply
  20. Once I started focusing on eating locally and more consciously, participating in a CSA that is exclusively produce, my meat intake has definitely decreased — not to mention buying pastured, grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat products at farmers markets do tend to be more costly from a financial perspective.

    Reply
  21. What a great post! I do eat meat (chicken, beef, etc.) but not often. I may eat meat once or twice a week. I know I could easily be a vegetarian and have no problem with it.
    For me, the reasons are due to the environmental impact as well as the treatment of the animals.
    I think it is great that people are becoming more aware of the benefits of being a vegetarian and encouraging things like “meatless mondays.”

    Reply
  22. I have to agree that I really enjoy the T3 Top Ten lists. This list continues to persuade me to focus on a diet with more fruits and vegetables and less meat. I don’t know if my family will ever be meat free but I like the idea of not being mentally enslaved to incorporating meat into every meal. The posts above prove a healthy and satisfying meal does not have to include meat. My next step is the vegetarian dinner party!!! I don’t quite have the nerve to do it yet. Let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks for continuing to open my mind. Good to hear from you.

    Reply
    • Glad you liked the list and I think you should post on the dinner party idea! Ask for suggestions and then, post about the party. That sounds fun.

      Reply
  23. We don’t eat that much meat and meatless meals are part of our weekly diet. I find that the older I get the less meat I eat because I just don’t want it.

    Reply
  24. Kath (Eating for Living)

     /  September 20, 2010

    Hi Tammie!

    I just discovered this and thought I would contribute something.

    First of all: I really like the idea of a vegetarian diet, for most of the ethically and environmentally related reasons you’ve posted above. Anyway, I’m not a vegetarian anymore (I’ve been a strict vegetarian for some years, and then an almost vegetarian for some more years), and the reason is that I’ve had a had hard time with grains (never liked beans anyway) and don’t tolerate any dairy products, so without animal products there wouldn’t remain a lot to eat. Switching to a diet that consists of mainly vegetables, fruit, and meat / fish has helped me to improve my health a lot, though. I believe people are different regarding their nutritional needs, and a vegetarian diet doesn’t work for everybody, but it may ver well work for some people.

    While I agree with many of the points listed above, I don’t agree with the points 2 & 3 (on health). The relationship between consumption of animal products and certain diseases (the old cholesterol / sat fat hypothesis) has been shown in a lot of scientific studies to be almost non-existent. Dietary cholesterol doesn’t have a effect on blood fat levels, and neither does saturated fat. What effects blood fat level is sugar consumption (simple carbohydrates): The more sugar people eat, the heigher blood fat levels they get.

    I also don’t think the fruit & vegetable argument is necessarily true. Fruit and veggies aren’t exclusively eaten on a vegetarian diet, you can also eat a diet that contains of animal products and a lot of fruit and veggies on top of that. A vegetarian diet, to the contrary, often contains large amounts of grains and beans that are relatively poor in vitamins and minerals, plus they contain substances (phytic acid, lectines, enzym blockers) that make them hard to digest and even impair micronutrient assimilation in the body. I think many people feel better when they turn a vegetarian diet, but not because they drop animal products, but because they start eating more fruit and veggies then. But you don’t have to become a vegetarian to do that.

    Reply
    • Great points Kath. I agree that it doesn’t work for everyone. On point three, I agree also. Anyone can add more fruits and vegetables. I’m still a hold out on #2 for right now. I have heard that cholesterol isn’t what it was cracked up to be but haven’t heard the same on excess fats and the hormones within. I’m open though and appreciate you putting a different viewpoint here.

      Reply
      • Kath (Eating for Living)

         /  September 20, 2010

        Thank you for being so open! If you are interested, you can read more on here:

        http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/267-myths-of-vegetarianism.html

        Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not against vegetarianism at all! I believe there are people who live very well and are healthy on a vegetarian diet. But I really dislike dogmatism about any point of view, and I think some people might assume that you don’t care for animals, the planet, or mankind if you still eat meat. You can be very careless as a vegetarian, and thoughtful as a meat eater about buying organic produce and eating real food, and vice versa. One thing doesn’t tell you about the other, and it’s always important to take a closer look.

        Anyway, I don’t want to insult anybody, I just wanted to give voice to another perspective. Thanks again.

        Reply
        • Thanks Kath. I’ll check out the link and agree with you regarding dogmatism on any point of view. I’m never insulted by a different point of view respectfully presented as you have done.

          Reply
      • According to a recently published Harvard School of Public Health study that followed 84,000 women over 26 years, women who ate two servings per day of red meat had a 30 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who had half a serving per day.

        Reply
  25. Huh – didn’t know Einstein was a vegetarian!

    Reply
  26. Great list and info to share!

    Reply
  27. Eric

     /  September 20, 2010

    Tammy, I am so often finding myself in the position of being impressed with your thoughts and deeds that it’s become normal. But its very uncommon. Naturally, you’re preaching to the choir with me on vegetarianism. Everything is energy. An Indian man once dramatically told me that eating meat is eating the suffering of the animals and making my own body a graveyard. Compassionately, so many hundreds of millions of animals suffer and die for our addictions. Its staggering. Environmentally, its senseless. Did you read that book, “the China Study” from Dr. Cambell? http://www.thechinastudy.com/about.html I thought I sent it to you. There’s no doubt about the adverse health effects of a meat-based diet after reading that book for me. Anyway, enough self-gratification. Big hug from Austin. E

    Reply
    • Thanks E. Hopefully you also read the last post about the dairy cattle that are humanely raised – again, energy. And yes, you did send the book. Not a fun book to read but compelling and well written.

      Reply
  28. I love your list, to the point.
    I am not a strict vegetarian(have been, though, through different stages of my life for several reasons listed on your list) but I, like you, eat meat rarely.
    Living in the south and being a part of a very meat-and-potato in-law family, I am always asked why I choose not to eat meat.
    Great cheat sheet.

    Reply
  29. I just want to mention the ‘religious reason’ behind being vegetarian in Hinduism: it is believed that everything (all objects and actions) in the world has certain qualities to it. By owning a certain object or consuming it, by doing certain actions, we imbibe into ourselves the qualities of those objects or actions. In ancient Vedic literature (sacred texts of the Hindus), different types of foods are classified according to their qualities. Meat, fish, eggs are said to have the quality of darkness and consuming them increases the negative qualities in our psyche. So, Hindu religion does not recommend meat-based diet for those who are serious about living a positive, spiritual life.

    Also note that Hinduism does not have any rules or commandments against eating meat. There are lots of Hindus who eat meat. As per Hinduism, if your lifestyle requires for you to have certain ‘negative’ qualities, it is okay to eat meat. For example, if you are soldier and your job requires you to have a psyche that is hardened enough to kill another human being.

    Reply
    • A S that is really interesting. I supposed that there were rules against eating meat but I like the idea of contributing to more positive qualities. Thanks for sharing this.

      Reply
  30. A friend of mine has this philosophy: if she can’t kill it, she won’t eat it. So, since she can kill a chicken and a fish, she allows herself to eat those. She couldn’t kill a cow, lamb or pig, so she doesn’t consume those animals. I like her way of thinking and it seems to respect nature and animals so much so that if an animal has given up its life, then we should repect it enough to honor its sacrifice.

    She’s been a large animal vet and currently, is a small-animal vet so she has seen how all sorts of animals are treated. I’m sure this has influenced her diet. She is married to a non-vegetarian and never pushes her beliefs on anyone else. Hubby and I have often thought of limiting our meat intake and there are times we are better at it than others. It is not easy in a society where meat is king.

    As usual, great post! 🙂

    Reply
  31. What a great post (like always)!
    Though, I personally am not a vegetarian, I love fruits and veggies, try to plan meals according to what’s healthier, and avoid eating meat as much as possible. Fish is my favorite anyway, so it’s pretty easy as is 🙂

    Reply
    • I like fish also – but it was a little scary when I was shopping for fish this weekend. There is so much farm raised and today in the news, the issues of genetically engineered salmon. Tsk tsk.

      Reply
  32. Fantastic post Tammy! Lots of great info here from everyone.
    I have been trying to adjust my own diet, as well as changing the way I approach food as a chef.
    Sites like this just help raise all of our awareness with regards to food, diet, health and community.
    I know for certain that I feel better physically when I eat less meat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables along with plenty of exercise.
    Ultimately though, I think each of us has a different physical makeup. I’ve known many vegetarians who always appear weak and emaciated while I’ve seen many carnivores live energetically into their late 90’s as smokers.
    Some believe that disposition, attitude and balance is more important than anything.
    I’m not sure if one approach suits all of us.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • I agree with you Giovanni. I know unhealthy vegetarians and carnivores who are going strong into old age. I also believe that disposition and attitude create our reality.

      Reply
  33. littlehousesouthernprairie

     /  September 22, 2010

    Fabulous list. I think “Fast Food Nation” should be required reading. It looks at why large-scale meat production and consumption is basically revolting for reasons from health, environmentalism, etc. Written by an investigative reporter.

    Reply
  34. Eric

     /  September 22, 2010

    This video clip comes at the appropriate time for this blog post: President Clinton discussing his weight loss and vegetarianism. He mentions Dr. Campbell’s The China Study.
    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/09/21/intv.clinton.blitzer.weight.loss.cnn

    Reply
  35. I’m a veggie but I don’t persecute others if they don’t. These are all good reasons, especially cruelty to animals. I don’t eat it because of something I can’t explain – but I can’t eat them.

    But if I were starving and that’s all there was, I’d eat it.

    Reply
  36. Excellent list; excellent reasons. I always thought I loved animals and nature but I don’t really think it was until I had my son and HE decided to be a vegetarian (at the wise old age of 4) that I really began to think about what I ate and the process it went through to get to my plate. Progress and awareness are definitely the keys.

    Reply
  37. i don’t eat a whole lot of meat but I’m not officially a vegetarian.

    Reply
  38. Great inspirational post, Tammy. We’re semi-vegetarians. We do eat fish, because my husband loves fishing. I usually eat just a little bit and he eats the rest. 🙂

    We ate macrobiotic for several years in my attempt to avoid surgery because my gall bladder doesn’t process oil efficiently. It’s so far worked…but I have learned that eating all vegetarian meals while traveling can be a fat-laden hell. The vegetarian food from restaurants is often drenched in oil with added cheese. I learned–the hard way–to order low-fat chicken, fish and turkey while traveling. Otherwise, I like vegetarian while at home.

    Reply
    • That’s great that you’ve used your diet to control a health outcome! And I can totally relate to the “eating out” vegetarian options. How many ways can they deliver pasta with CHEESE?

      Reply
  39. Tammy McLeod

     /  September 27, 2010

    I’m so glad you posted this. It’s inspiring as well as serendipitiously timely. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’ve recently been thinking about (and doing so!) consuming less meat for many of the reasons you outlined above.

    I’m starting to feel the desire to live my life more in line with my ideals… it’s not impossible! 🙂

    Reply
  40. jessiecarty

     /  September 27, 2010

    so much great info in the post and in the comments. I also have some issues with grains (especially corn based products) so I do continue to eat a bit of meat. I’m hoping as I lose weight that I can try, again, to eat a more vegetarian diet. As it is now I tend to eat meat at one meal a day, but only a small portion.

    I think the use of water facts are something that really should be promoted more. I bet that would get people thinking!

    Reply
    • That doesn’t sound like a lot of meat and you need to see what works for you. What we do see sometimes is that people who give up meat start to load up on bread, grains and cheese and that is not a good solution.

      Reply
  41. Thanks for a fabulous, thought-provoking post, Tammy! I’m not a vegetarian, although leaning more and more that way in sentiment, if not always action 🙂

    Reply
  42. Dawn

     /  October 1, 2010

    You’ve given me much to think about – great post. I love Cris Winters’ idea of using meat to flavour but not as a main course – this works for me (I live with two meat-loving boys) and feels like a good way to transition… I definitely need more vegetarian meal ideas – for some reason I have it in my head that veggie meals aren’t as filling? I’m sure I can prove this wrong quite quickly…

    Reply
  43. I would become a vegetarian in a heartbeat..But I love candy, ice cream and cokes cheers great blog as always,mlb

    Reply
  44. All your points are right on! Especially the one about feeding the world and being kinder to animals. Books I highly recommend to anyone thinking about going veggie: The Omnivore’s Dilemna, Eating Animals, Slaughterhouse, The Jungle.

    http://thelonelywifeproject.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  45. Great tips!

    Reply
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