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Reasons to go Vegetarian
Vegetarianism can be adopted for different reasons.
Early in 2007, Consumer Reports tested 525 supermarket chickens from all across the U.S. and found only 17 percent free of both salmonella and campylobacter. Premium brands labeled "organic" or "raised free of antibiotics" actually harbored more salmonella than conventional ones. Most of the bacteria were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic—and some samples showed resistance to multiple strains.
Egg-laying hens in the U.S. are crammed into battery cages, each with 4 to 8 other birds, stacked in rows by the tens of thousands. Manure and rotting carcass fumes billow up from below. Beetles form a layer over the waste. Some birds get loose and drown in the pit. Others get tangled in the wire and die of dehydration, then decompose, covered in bugs, while cage mates have no escape. Intense stress causes birds to attack one another. After 17 months of confinement, necks are covered with blisters, wings are bare, combs bloody, and feet torn. By now, the birds are considered an expense and will be disposed of expediently—read: cruelly.
Two major studies have emerged in recent years that show the vegan lifestyle to be conducive to lower body weight. A Swedish study of 55,000 women and a British study of 65,000 men and women both found vegans to have lower BMIs (body mass index) and to suffer less often from obesity. Vegan food tends often to be lower in calories by volume. And since plant-based fare is likely to contain dietary fiber, it satiates quicker.
Adopting a high-protein fad diet may help you lose weight in the short run, but so might chemotherapy, food poisoning, or serious illness. If health is what you desire, you're eventually going to have to learn how to eat. Resoundingly, the American Heart Association and other major health organizations warn people against the Atkins and other low-carb diets, because they can cause fatigue or dizziness and strain the kidneys. Often unbeknownst to the dieter, these meal plans induce dehydration. Also, upping fat and lowering carbohydrate intake has been found to impair brain function over time.
A 2005 report by Environmental Defense estimated that 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. go to chickens, hogs, and beef cattle, "...not to treat disease, but rather to promote growth and to compensate for crowded, stressful, and often unhygienic conditions on industrial-scale farms." Also, according to the report, antibiotics deemed important to human medicine "comprise nearly half of the overall quantity of antibiotics used as feed additives," a particularly troubling fact in light of growing worldwide antibiotic resistance.
Forests cleanse the environment, regulate climate, and provide habitat for wildlife and crop pollinators. Many modern medicines derive from forests. Our very survival on planet Earth depends upon them. According to a 390-page U.N. report in 2006, the expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation. Today, nearly all of it is taking place in the Amazon, thanks to grazing and the production of feedcrops. Worldwide, livestock production uses 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet.
Fish and shellfish farming, or aquaculture, is no less disruptive to the environment than taking fish from the wild. Shoreline pens replace mangroves, the habitats where wild fish would otherwise regenerate. Some farmed species will not breed in captivity, so fish farmers must steal juveniles, who never get a chance to reproduce, from the wild. There are numerous cases where farmed fish have escaped into the wild, corrupting the genetic purity of native species and spreading disease. Large-scale biomass fishing for fishmeal threatens vast ecosystems. Feed-to-flesh ratios soar in some farmed species to 25 to 1. Nitrogenous waste poisons the seabed floor below cages that hold fish in unnatural densities.
Today's turkeys are unable to copulate on their own, thanks to selectively bred, freakishly huge breasts in the "toms." The birds must be artificially inseminated. The job is nearly as dehumanizing for the workers—who must work rapidly for long hours and low wages—as it is deplorable for the tortured breeder birds, who are essentially raped every week for 12 to 16 months until they are most unceremoniously sent to slaughter.
Before 1981, E. coli O157:H7 poisoning didn't exist. Today, the deadly strain infects 80 percent of cattle on America's feedlots. You can blame a change in feed for this. To make the animals grow five times the rate they would on hay, feedlot operators foisted a corn-based diet onto the cattle and provided the perfect environment for O157:H7 to emerge. Now this terrible strain is regularly poisoning our raw vegetables and fruits via cross contamination.
America's farmed animals produce 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, or 5 tons for every U.S. citizen. (Just one cow produces 100 pounds in a day.) And the pollution strength of it all can reach levels 160 times greater than that of raw municipal sewage. This vast accumulation is not neatly contained; manure is the most common pollutant today in America's waters. Land sprayed with pig excrement is particularly toxic, since pigs contract and transmit many human diseases—namely, meningitis, salmonella, chlamydia, giardia, cryptosporidiosis, worms, and influenza. Manure is laden with phosphorous, nitrates, and heavy metals and emits ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and cyanide. Manure has always been seen as fertilizer. But in today's quantities, it is a menacing under-regulated industrial pollutant.
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