From the perspective of an ethical vegetarian, vegetarianism is more than just a diet. It is a lifestyle that’s undertaken to live without guilt. The moment I made a conscious decision that I don’t want to contribute to animal abuse, was a break point in my life where I started noticing, the extent to which we harm animals worldwide when it is not apparent at all. If you want to live in a more cruelty-free way, your eating habits will play a massive role in this process.
Why adapting a vegetarian diet was the best decision ever made.
When I read and watched materials from undercover investigations from the slaughterhouses, the guilt I felt was unbelievable. Even now, after 4 years of not eating animals, I feel guilty for what I used to eat. I feel guilty for things I cannot change and things I unwillingly do that affect animals.
I always respected animals. Whenever I saw a hurt animal I tried to help. After considering myself as a huge animal lover, I eventually started to think – why do I feel like I love some animals and not all? A few years ago it hit me, how much we exploit such vulnerable and beautiful creatures. We treat souls that have done nothing to us, like our worst enemy. Perhaps even worse as we take their lives from them.
We live in a society where we face animal cruelty on a daily basis. When we visit a supermarket we are surrounded by products that exploit animals. If you pay attention to the products you use, you’ll realize how many of these are unnecessarily non-vegan. Medicine, make up, hygiene products, sweets, drinks, cakes, ready meals – all contribute to animal exploitation through animal testing, trade in countries where animal rights are non-existent, use of gelatin to ensure long use-by dates and many more.
Such products surround us everywhere. Our society assumes that we are ‘privileged’ to exploit other living beings literally at every step of our existence. Living cruelty-free involves consciousness, knowledge and attention to everything we purchase. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re paying for, you are probably supporting animal abuse. Awareness is key.
After realizing that we harm animals on many different levels and we can’t do anything about it, I thought the obvious and biggest thing I can do is stop eating them. What we consume and decide to feed our bodies with is entirely up to us. You are the master of your body and you decide what you put inside it. I didn’t want to put dead bodies in mine. An animal that has been brutally killed in mass production. Humiliated on the way and tortured. I asked myself a question whether I would be able to kill an animal with my own hands. No. I wouldn’t be able to live myself if I ever did. Therefore why would I pay someone else to do it for me? By paying someone to do so, I have the animals blood on my hands just as much as the slaughter man does.
As it later turned out, dropping meat was surprisingly simple. At least from my body’s point of view.
“Oh, but it tastes so good”
Are 3 minutes of our enjoyment really more important than an animal’s whole life? It struck me how shallow and ridiculous this excuse is.
Animals feel and think like people. They build relationships and have every possible right to be on this planet as much as we do. Studies show, they even judge others similarly to humans. Their vulnerability and weakness, do not justify why we should use it to our advantage and kill them for our pleasure.
I’d like to believe that people are compassionate and loving. Despite the exceptions we are naturally kind and supportive. I have came to a conclusion that in most cases, we are not aware of the harm we make. Once we realize, we aim to stop and take a different direction. That is exactly what happened to me when after realizing how much impact my decisions have on other living beings, I knew I had to change the way I behave and the choices I make.
The good, old, protein argument.
As soon as you mention to someone that you do not eat meat, they will immediately turn into a protein expert. They probably never thought about their own protein intake but as soon as you say it, they will be concerned about your health – how thoughtful.
The truth is that proteins are essential for our human bodies to function healthily. We need them to repair and build cells in our bodies. We require 0.8 gram of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight but the daily calorie intake is equally important. About 10% to 35% of our calorie needs should be protein. Because a standard adult requires 2000 kcal a day, 100 grams of that should be protein. Those living an active lifestyle and contributing in sports require more protein but we’ll stick with standard guidelines.
Around 15-20% of human body is protein. Similar ratio applies to animals which would explain why some people suggest that meat is a rich source of protein. Although that might be the case, it isn’t the only one.
Below is a list of protein in different foods per 100 grams of product.
|Roasted Soy beans||40g|
|Milk (inc Soymilk)||5.7g|
|Nuts & Seeds||30g|
We can see that meat is without a doubt one of the richest in protein. It doesn’t come as a surprise since animals needed these nutrients to live healthily whilst they were still alive. Because that is the case people consider it as the easiest ‘healthy’ protein source. A standard steak weighs more than 100 gram. People often eat meat on multiple occasions during the day, possibly for for every meal. Vegetarian sides provide their own amount of protein too. This could result in excessive protein intake which can in turn lead to weight gain, yeast overgrowth or cancer. I can imagine you think ‘yeah, right..’ but with a little bit of research, you will find that meat isn’t as healthy as we’re used to think. This information has also been backed up by Helen from Health Ambition who elaborates on it in her article on the benefits of being a vegetarian.
It is also important to consider the type of protein we are consuming and how nutritional it is. Not all protein is the the same. Whilst eating meat, along side protein you consume cholesterol and saturated fat. Although meat is said to provide the “complete” protein, there are plant based sources of complete protein which provide you will all the essential amino acids. These include soy, quinoa, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Stating that meat is the best and only source of protein is a humongous exaggeration. Such explanation is only an excuse for guilt free meat consumption. There are pros and cons of both plant based and animal protein and either way you have to find the right combination and balance. The only difference is that when you select plants, you save animals’ lives. I only see one option here.
Moving on to muscle
The protein topic is hugely related to muscle building. Who said you need meat to build up muscle? Well, many people actually. I constantly see men, show off how much steak or chicken & rice they they need to eat to build their body. Again, it’s supposedly the easiest and quickest way but not necessary at all.
The key to building muscle is the protein quality. In fact, I have seen plenty of amazing body builders who are, guess what… VEGAN!
Have a search for these guys:
- Nimai Delgado: Professional athlete. Never eaten meat.
- Raya Higgs: Vegan. Fitness Model, Nutrition and Exercise plans
- Patrik Baboumian: Former Bodybuilder and Germany’s strongest man. Holder of multiple lifting records. Vegetarian for many years. Vegan since 2011.
- Alexander Dargatz: Vegan Bodybuilder. Won 2005 Bodybuilder title after 5 years of veganism. Inspired by ethical, ecological, spiritual and healthy reasons.
- Torre Washington: Body building competitor. Holder of multiple awards and records. Vegetarian since birth, vegan for many years. Advocates for veganism because of animals rights and the health of mother nature. Awarded the Humane Hero Award by the Florida Humane League in 2016 for his animal advocacy.
They don’t sound ( nor look) like they lack protein, eh? There are plenty more!
Vegetarian diet is healthier
Dr. Edward Group from the Global healing center suggests that adopting a vegetarian diet is a perfect introduction to better health. It enables higher consumption of folic acid, fiber, magnesium, vitamins C and E, unsaturated fat and various phytochemicals. The end results include, lower cholesterol, reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure. If you read Helen’s article above, you’d know that by now.
Additional benefits may include the following:
- Mood improvements
- Reduce chances of Diabetes
- Lower risk of Cataract Development
- Lower risk of Cardiovascular disease
- Low Cholesterol
- Lower risk of Stroke and Obesity
- Reduce chance of Kidney Stones
- Can Satisfy all nutritional needs
A 30 year long study of residents of Okinawa, Japan, showed that they have the longest life span expectancy. It’s no surprise at this point that their diet is based on low calorie diet full of unrefined carbs, raw fruit, vegetables and soy.
GMO and what farm animals eat.
Let’s ASSUME for a second that meat is healthy and recommended. Do you think animals should be kept healthy and fed with nutritious meals regularly? They have the right to have their body looked after from the inside, just like us. Unfortunately it has been discovered that animal are fed with… well… garbage.
- Same species meat
- Diseased animals
- Feathers, Hair, Hooves, Skin and Blood
- Manure and other animal waste
- Drugs and Chemicals
- Sweets, Chocolate, Marshmallow. With wrappers. Due to high sugar amount the aim is to give cows more energy and make them fatter.
- Ground limestone-source of calcium
- Chicken feces – plentiful and cheap. Full o feathers, heavy metals, bacteria, antibiotics, rodents.
- Crab- cheap source of protein-undesirable parts of fish, crab, shrimp, crayfish.
In mass production, the only factor that matters is profit, which is why nothing should go to waste. Animals that get ill or pass away cause profit loss so they are fed back to the rest of the animals.
We believe that slaughterhouses are monitored and rules are in place to ensure animals well-being. With thousands of animals to control, employees eventually get desensitized to cruelty and simply the way world works – these rules do not mean much.
Bear in mind that whatever the animal eats – has an effect on your body too. If you eat a pig that was given antibiotics and plastic, this stuff ends up in your stomach too.
Let me cite some statistics from Viva!, a website of an organisation that fights for animal rights.
“The total number of animals killed in British slaughterhouses in 2013 was over a billion.
This included 9.8 million pigs, nearly 15 million sheep, 18 million turkeys, 14 million ducks, over 945 million chickens and 2.6 million cattle. Add to that 4.5 billion fish and 2.6 billion shellfish you have a total of over 8 billion animals killed in the UK each year.
This equates to around 22 million animals slaughtered every day; 919,000 an hour; 15,000 per minute and 255 every second.”
We kill 255 animals per second. By the time you finish reading this article over a thousand of animals will lose their life. For our pleasure. I don’t how much more selfish we can get.
Hunger is a common social injustice issue in some developing countries. Around 925 million people are estimated to suffer from hunger worldwide. That’s more than than populations of the US, Canada and EU combined together. It has been proved that there is enough food in the world to feed every human on the planet, yet so many experience severe hunger and malnutrition.
Ironically the world hunger seems to be strongly related to meat consumption. To produce 1 pound of edible meat we require 16 pounds of grains. According to the USDA, an acre of land used to raise cattle for slaughter provides 20 pounds of usable protein. The exact same amount of land can provide 365 pounds of protein in soy bean form.
Production of vegan food can take up to 1/6 of an acre as opposed 3 1/4 acre for meat eater. If we look at a larger scale to consider all the usable land on the planet and divide it equally, every individual would get 2/3 of an acre. That’s enough for a vegetarian diet and greatly below the limit for a meat eater.
Although there are enough plant based sources of food, majority of the crops is fed to livestock for affluent nations. Although majority of the animals are bred in developing countries, locals don’t have access to the meat, nor do they have enough land to produce their grains.
If you compare the amount of grains and water fed to one cow and the edible meat obtained from the same cow, you will see the imbalance. This is an another reason that makes the meat industry irrational and unsustainable.
Side effects on the environment
Water is not only required to feed to farmed animals but it’s also needed to grow crops and clean dirty factory farms. Feeding a vegan for a day takes about 300 gallons of water as opposed to 4000 gallons for a meat eater. You can save more water by not eating meat for a day than by not showering for a year.
According to the Worldwatch Institute, animal agriculture causes at least 51% of global greenhouse-gas emissions
One of the leading causes of lakes and river pollution is the runoff from factory farms and livestock grazing. Such runoff can be easily contaminated with viruses and bacteria. This in turn endangers fish by poisoning their natural water habitat.
Commercial fishing methods cause a great danger to sea life. They clear the ocean floor of all life and damage coral reefs. Animals such as turtles, sharks, dolphins and other get killed because they caught in the nets by accident.
Seas and oceans get contaminated by coastal fish farms which release antibiotics, feces, parasites and non-native fish into delicate ecosystems.
Is being vegetarian difficult?
As a vegetarian, you would often hear people say – “I could never do that”. The toughest challenge we face is not the lack of meat.
The biggest challenge ethical vegetarians have to face is realizing how much cruelty there is in the world. Having to live with it, knowing there ins’t much you can do about it. Dropping meat is a piece of cake, a matter of habit. To dedicated meat eaters, a suggestion to stop eating meat will seem like an impossible task but remember that almost every vegetarian said the same words before they turned vegetarian.
Ethical vegetarianism isn’t just a diet. As time goes by, your morals change and your own ethics get twisted more and more. You will live a lifestyle which a lot of people don’t understand. Unawareness of the cruelty prevents others from rationalizing your perspective. At times, the beliefs that animals should be killed and eaten are so strong in people, it causes your arguments to bounce of them like a rubber ball. From a psychological point of view, this a normal behavior which acts as a defense mechanism to ease a mental discomfort.
Although people tend to get mad sometimes when I explain vegetarianism, it doesn’t frustrate me anymore as much as it used to. It’s their way of dealing with the facts, and the reaction is caused by their conscience. Because they are faced with drastic facts that are against their beliefs, they defend even the irrational opinions with great determination.
Overall, the most difficult aspect of a vegetarian lifestyle are other people. Meat free or vegan food is easily accessible. It’s others opposition and lack of understanding that often cause awkward, cringe situations. Although by not consuming animals you do a good deed to the world, people might make you feel guilty and uncomfortable. This is when you have to remember that you are not the one causing pain to others, you are trying to live a peaceful life and reduce animal exploitation. That’s an attitude to be proud of. If someone doesn’t understand, calmly educate them, present with the truth. There are plenty of undercover materials online that present clearly how animals are treated. You just have to reach out and dare to watch them. You will never look at animals and humans the same.
Slaughter means murder. Can a murder be humane?
Regardless, we are told by the meat industry that laws and regulations are in place to ensure humane slaughter of animals. This means that an animal should be stunned before it is killed so that it doesn’t feel any pain.
In the past, it was believed that an animals heart should still be beating when it’s throat is cut open to enable the blood to be pumped out. Thankfully, this has now changed because someone discovered that whether an animal is alive at this point or not, doesn’t matter. In turn, new stun techniques have been introduced, which aimed to stun and kill at the same time. These include gas and electricity which is supposed to cause loss of consciousness as well as a cardiac arrest.
These methods decrease the possibility of an animal regaining consciousness whilst they bleed out to death but they don’t eliminate the pain entirely. According to The Scientific Veterinary Committee of the EU when electricity is used , animals do not always lose consciousness and can therefore suffer a ‘potentially painful’ cardiac arrest. Gas mixtures in turn do not kill instantly and can cause enormous distress and pain if they contain carbon dioxide.
In an ideal scenario, all of this happens and the animal without knowing crosses a bridge to a better place for a better life. Or so we are made to think. There are plenty of undercover investigations and evidence material to show that rules at slaughterhouses are appalling. Viva! has discovered that slaughter men are often paid on the basis of the amount of animals they kill per day. The more they kill, they more they earn. I’m sure we can all agree that this doesn’t help the animal’s interests.
The animals are often electrocuted by having 2 metal rods inserted into both ends of their body. They basically get an electric shock from the inside. They might also be put in a small area with no place for movement where they are gassed to death after which they helplessly collapse to the ground. (Rings a bell?)
Apart from painful death, animals bred for mass slaughter are humiliated, beaten, slapped and disrespected. Putting aside all the physical pain, these animals experience psychological trauma. I already said that animals feel and think like people. I’m not saying we are at the same level of intelligence, but that animals are fully aware and conscious of the world around them. They aren’t objects which we can misplace, replace and displace. They build relationships, they cry for their babies and their mothers. They even mourn their close ones, some even their other halves. They observe and feel the fear. As well as enjoying fresh air on green grass they are afraid when they see their ‘slaughter’ friend being killed in front of them knowing that they are the next one in line.
If you believe in karma, positive & negative energy you should know that when you consume animals body, you consume it’s fear, it’s tears. It’s sadness. All this negative energy an animal produced through the suffering it went through via the humiliation and pain, ends up in your body.
Whatever the reasons. Religious beliefs, health problems, wight loss aims, compassion or taste, any reason is good to adapt a vegetarian diet. Going and staying vegetarian is always a positive change. For others, for animals, for the environment and for yourself.
Image Credit: Credit: Frann Leach, Flickr