A lot of people ask me why I am a vegetarian. The question always makes me cringe because it requires a long explanation. Usually, I will give them the abbreviated version: a veggie diet is better for the environment and for my health. Most are surprised by this answer! Many non-vegetarians assume that the only reason to give up animal products is morality. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that it is wrong to eat animals when we have an abundance of other healthful choices, but it is not the only reason to become a vegetarian.
Another reason that I don’t like to answer their questions is that I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching. I don’t look down on anybody for making their own decisions about the food that they put into their bodies. That is a very personal and private choice. Although I believe that a vegan diet is the best choice, even I have struggled with it. There have been long periods of time where I have managed to remain strictly vegan, only to fall into an even longer period where small amounts of dairy in my diet are common. One thing that I would like to see is for people to become educated on the impact of meat and dairy products on our environment, health, and economy. After that, they can make their own decisions.
Growing livestock is an inefficient use of precious resources. Almost half of the U.S. water supply is consumed by livestock as is 80% of its agricultural land. In addition, livestock requires an enormous amount of energy. According to a researcher at Cornell University, “animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein.”
Livestock is contributing to the growing problem of global warming. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that it accounts for 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities. The production process also emits other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
Research has shown that a vegetarian diet has numerous health benefits: a healthier heart, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, diabetes control, cancer prevention, and higher calcium retention.