Eating for Life
by, Cory Lauden                                    Vegetarianism has been a way of life for many people for centuries, and today nearly 20 million Americans are vegetarians; many more have greatly reduced their meat consumption. Recently, as the links between meat consumption and life-threatening illnesses have become more apparent, and as more people have become aware of the cruelties of meat production, vegetarianism has rapidly gained in popularity.

Health Benefits
There is no nutritional need for humans to eat any animal products; all of our dietary needs, even as infants and children, are best supplied by an animal-free diet. Our evolutionary ancestors were, and our closest primate relatives are vegetarians. Human teeth and intestines are designed for eating and digesting plant foods, so it is no wonder that our major health problems can be traced to meat consumption.

The consumption of animal products has been conclusively linked with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Cholesterol (found only in animal products) and animal fat clog arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. A vegetarian diet can prevent 97 percent of coronary occlusions. The rate of colon cancer is highest in regions where meat consumption is high and lowest where meat-eating is uncommon. A similar pattern is evident for breast, cervical, uterine, ovarian, prostate, and lung cancers.

Low-fat diets, particularly those without saturated fat, have been instrumental in allowing many diabetics to dispense with their pills, shots, and pumps. A study of more than 25,000 people over age 21 found that vegetarians have a much lower risk of getting diabetes.

A South African study found not a single case of rheumatoid arthritis in a community of 800 people who did not eat meat or dairy products. Another study found that a similar group that ate meat and other high-fat foods had almost four times the incidence of arthritis.

Osteoporosis, or bone loss due to mineral (particularly calcium) depletion, is not so much a result of insufficient calcium as it is a result of
eating too much protein. A 1983 Michigan State University study found that by age 65, male vegetarians had an average measurable bone loss of 3 percent; male meat

 

 


18 percent; female vegetarians, 7 percent; female meat-eaters, 35 percent.

 

In addition to the problems associated with too much fat, cholesterol and protein, consumers of animal products take in far greater amounts of residual agricultural chemicals, industrial pollutants, antibiotics and hormones than do vegetarians. The absorption of antibiotics through meat-eating results in antibiotic-resistant strains of pneumonia, childhood meningitis, gonorrhea, salmonella and other serious illnesses.

Approximately 9,000 Americans die annually from food-borne illness and an estimated 80 million others fall ill.(1) The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that up to 40 percent of the poultry sold in this country is infected with salmonella bacteria.(2)

Meat contains 14 times the pesticide residue as plant foods and dairy products. Has more than five times as much residue. Fish is another source of dangerous
residues. The EPA estimates that fish can accumulate up to nine million times the level of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs) then found in the water in which they live. Ninety-five percent of human exposure to dioxin, a "probable" cause of cancer and other health risks, comes through meat, fish and dairy consumption.(3)

Vegetarian Ethics
Human beings must consider what impact our actions have on the lives of others. To limit moral consideration to humans only is no more logical or justifiable than limiting concern to white people only or to men only; speciesism, like racism and sexism, is wrong because all animals contribute to the ecosystem and are capable of suffering. We do not need to eat meat to live. Because today's system of mass production of these "products" causes pain, distress and death to the billions of animals from whom they are taken each year, we are
ethically bound to renounce them.

Ecological Arguments
More than four million acres of cropland are lost to erosion in the United States every year. Of this staggering topsoil loss, 85 percent is directly
associated with livestock over-grazing.
Throughout the world, forests are being destroyed to support the meat eating habits of the "developed" nations. Between 1960 and 1985 nearly 40 percent
of all Central American rain forests were destroyed to create pasture for beef cattle.                

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