Reasons to go Vegetarian
Vegetarianism can be adopted for different reasons.
Nearly all of the approximately 10 billion animals slaughtered for food in the U.S. every year are the end result of a behemothic, swift-moving, assembly- line system, incorporating dangerous, unprecedented, and unsustainable methods of production. Cheap meat could never exist if the meat industry were required by law to give the animals humane living conditions, including spacious quarters, clean surroundings, fresh air, sunlight, and opportunities for social interaction, nor if it were simply illegal to drug the animals who would otherwise die from the conditions in which they live. Time and again the industry balks at even lowcost measures designed to improve the animals' plight. And now, prices have been driven to unnaturally low levels for the final end products, making these cruel, unsustainable foods staples of the American diet.

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.

When people follow a diet rich in animal fat and protein and get little exercise, cancer risk is increased. Beef consumption raises the level of toxic substances called N-nitroso compounds, which are formed in the large intestines. The substances are believed to adhere to DNA, making mutations more likely. Dietary fiber could be helpful in repairing the damage. But, remember, only plant foods contain fiber.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70 percent of the world's commercial fish stocks are fully exploited, overfished, or collapsed. To supply surging world demand, fishers use rapacious techniques, such as sonar, driftnets, longlines, dredgers, and leviathan fishpacking vessels. In the case of longlining, 4.5 million hooks are launched daily. Now, 90 percent of the coveted top predator fish are gone. Consequently, fishers have moved down the food web to species once considered "trash." These species, of course, are the food source of the fish that were initially overfished. Amazingly, a third of the world's harvested fish go to feed livestock or farmed fish. The ocean's interconnected ecosystem simply cannot keep pace. In 2006, a report published in the journal Science estimated that by 2048 all wild commercial fish stocks would be wiped out.

The Humane Slaughter Act requires that mammals be rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered. A Washington Post series some years ago, however, exposed a packing industry hard pressed to follow this law. Animals were found regularly butchered alive on speeded-up conveyor lines. A $5 million appropriation was consequently enacted to hire more humane inspectors for kill floors across the nation, but the funds ended up being diverted to food-safety inspectors already employed. In the end, the Humane law does not even apply to 99 percent of animals slaughtered, because poultry birds and fish are not covered by it.

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