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Food is the most basic need of man and all people have to eat in order to live. Obtaining something to eat is therefore an integral activity of the human experience. Naturally, human beings can live on meat and vegetables since they are omnivores. Eating meat and vegetables provides the required nutrition for a healthy body.
However, it is possible to obtain all the required nutrition from a diet that does not consist of animal or fish flesh. People who abstain from eating animal or fish flesh are known as vegetarians and they practice vegetarianism. On the other hand, people who supplement their vegetable diet with meat products are called meat-eaters. Majority of the human beings on earth are meat-eaters. In the past few decades, there has been a move towards the promotion of vegetarianism.
This move has been prompted by the alleged benefits of a vegetarian diet. This paper will set out to argue that being a vegetarian is more beneficial for the individual and the environment and as such, more people should adopt this practice. To reinforce this claim, the paper will highlight the many advantages attributed to vegetarianism and contrast them with the negative effects of meat eating.
A Case for Vegetarianism
Adopting a vegetarian diet will help a person avoid some diseases caused or promoted by meat consumption. Diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease can be caused or exacerbated by meat consumption. Researchers reveal that while genetic factors contribute to the contraction of these diseases, the dietary habits of a person increase or decrease an individual’s risk of developing the diseases (Hart 64).
People who eat mean are more likely to develop obesity and heart disease than those who practice vegetarianism. In addition to this, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables improves the body’s blood circulation and actively prevents cardiac diseases. Vegetarians are therefore less likely to suffer from heart diseases compared to meat eaters. Practicing a meat-free diet will therefore improve the health outcomes of the individual.
A vegetarian diet offers protection from the numerous public health risks associated with meat eating. Meat consumption exposes a person to many risks due to the diseases and medication offered to animals. Modern food manufacturing undermines the healthiness of meat. Unlike in the past where livestock was reared in a natural manner, farmers today engage in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and food supplements to their farm animals.
Henning explains that farmers engage in this practice in x order to reduce the susceptibility of their animals to diseases and promote growth (1086). While these practices achieve these desirable results, they do so at a major cost to meat eaters. Consuming the meat of animals that have been pumped full of antibiotics increases antibiotic-resistant human bacterial illnesses therefore creating a significant public health threat.
A person can avoid these risks associated with meat consumption by becoming a vegetarian. A vegetarian diet is associated with greater longevity. Studies indicate that a meat-free diet significantly decreases the risk of death leading to longer life for the individual who practices vegetarianism. This relationship between vegetarianism and long life is due to a number of reasons.
Singh and Sabate highlight that a vegetarian diet assists in the maintenance of a healthy weight and this contributes to long life by preventing the person from developing lifestyle diseases that lead to early deaths (265). A vegetarian diet also keeps a person safe from the many toxic components present in meat products. Singh and Sabate warn that animals reared for meat ingest large quantities of commercial feedlot additives (266).
In addition to this, the meat contains saturated fat and consuming this is a risk factor for fatal diseases. Meat eaters are therefore likely to die earlier due to complications caused by their dietary practices. A vegetarian diet can help mitigate the adverse environmental impacts caused by meat eating. Meat consumption in the world has increased exponentially in the last 6 decades.
Due to the improved economic wellbeing of most people, the demand for meat has grown in countries all over the world. Animal product producers have therefore increased their scale of production in order to satisfy this demand. The environment has been significantly affected as cattle ranches have expanded. Henning illustrates that cattle ranching has led to widespread deforestation and it has contributed to “soil erosion, degradation of stream habitat, and desertification” (1087).
Animal production has also contributed to the unsustainable use of water resources. Huge water reserves have to be dedicated to animal production leading to the depletion of water resources. In addition to this, animals produce vast amounts of waste and in most cases, this effluent is allowed to leak into the environment thus polluting water reservoirs and degrading the environment. A vegetarian diet would ensure that this negative environmental impacts attributed to animal production are alleviated.
A vegetarian diet can help increase the global food security. At the moment, the food production is able to satisfy the food demands of the human population. However, the high rate of population increase is raising concerns about the ability of the Earth to produce enough food for the entire human population. Because of meat consumption, high pressure is being put on the global food supply (McCarthy 122).
Meat production requires large areas of land to be dedicated to livestock rearing. This puts a strain on the limited land resources of the world. A lot of water is also needed to sustain the high level of meat production required by the modern world. Animals reared for food also consume products that can be eaten by human beings. Brown reveals that farm animals consume more cereal products that human beings do (28).
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If the current rate of meat-consumption is pursued, the world will not be able to produce enough food for everyone. A vegetarian diet is more sustainable since it does not over-stretch the available land and water resources. In addition to this, vegetarianism will lead to higher cereal production since farm animals will not be fed on cereals that can be used to feed people.
This will promote sustainable production and consumption of food products leading to global food security. A vegetarian diet is more cost-effective than meat eating. A person uses less money to maintain a vegetarian diet than to engage in a meat-based diet. Even through the cost of meat has reduced significantly over the decades, meat is still more expensive than non-meat products.
Lusk and Norwood confirm that “it is significantly more expensive to produce a pound of meat (or milk) than a pound of commodity crops” (112). McCarthy documents that the low cost of meat can be attributed to heavy government subsidization to meat producers (132). The final cost of these subsidies is incurred by citizens through taxation. Vegetarianism also helps a person to save money by promoting health.
The meat-eater is forced to incur recurring medical expenses due to the numerous health issues promoted by meat consumption. Meat eating also leads to income reduction as the productivity of the meat-eater is reduced due to illness. These negative economic impacts can be overcome by adopting a vegetarian diet. This diet will ensure that the harmful effects of meat eating on an individual’s health are avoided.
Arguments Supporting Meat Eating
Meat plays a role in social events as people in a group setting enjoy it. People are able to celebrate and develop relationships as they consume meat communally. This unique role of meat in social events occurs because meat fulfills a deeper role than just providing the necessary nutrition and satisfying hunger among human beings. Meat has traditionally held a central position in global food culture.
Holm asserts that meat is “the most highly prices, the most sacred and powerful” food in many cultures (277). The cultural significance of meat makes it a special meal that plays a crucial role in interactions among people. There is no disputing the fact that meat holds a dominant position in our culture. However, culture is not static and it is constantly changing to suit the circumstances of the time.
The modern society does not have to perpetuate the dietary patterns utilized in the past. People can therefore take action to override the dominant meat-eating culture. Meat eating is a sign of affluence in many societies. While the price of meat has significantly reduced over the decades, it is still higher than the price of most vegetable products.
In a typical meal, meat produce are the minor component while the major components of the meal is vegetables. The association between mean-eating and prosperity results in meat being considered a food above all others. By consuming meat, humankind is able to demonstrate power and dominance over the rest of the natural world.
Fiddes explains that historically, meat has always been the favored food of the wealthy and powerful elites in society (277). Meat therefore acts as a luxury good that human beings are motivated to acquire. While it is true that meat eating is seen as a sign of affluence, a vegetarian diet can also demonstrate affluence. In the western world, the vegetarian diet is mostly practiced by the well-educated and elite members of the society.
On the other hand, meat is consumed by most people since it is widely available. Meat plays an integral role in human development by providing some essential nutrients to the consumer. Singh and Sabate document that meat is the most important source of the essential proteins required by the human body (266). A study by a team of nutritional experts revealed that meat consumption ensures that a person gets the recommended level of essential minerals (EBLEX par. 3).
Meat eating therefore ensures that the person’s immune system is boosted since essential minerals are acquired through the consumption of meat products. Critics of vegetarianism declare that meat is “an important source of high-quality protein and essential micronutrients” (EBLEX para. 4). Meat is a rich source of iron, key vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, selenium, and zinc, which contribute to long-term health.
While meat is a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins, it also results in many adverse effects to the human body. Meat consumers are negatively predisposed to diseases such as diabetes and obesity. On the other hand, is a person obtains all the necessary minerals and vitamins from non-meat products, he/she will achieve overall health without the health risks associated with meat consumption.
This paper set out to argue that a vegetarian diet is preferable to meat eating. The paper began by defining vegetarianism and showing that this practice has gained prominence in the recent years. The paper then highlighted that vegetarianism can help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A vegetarian diet will also contribute to the reduction in the environmental damages caused by meat eating and increase global food security.
The paper has also provided some of the arguments in support of meat eating. It has shown that meat eating has some social and cultural attachments and contributes to the developing of society. Meat eating plays a role in social events and it is also associated with affluence. In addition to this, meat consumption contributes to overall health by providing the body with essential vitamins and minerals.
In spite of these positive attributes of meat, the evidence presented in this paper suggests that meat eating is detrimental to the well being of the individual and the society. Considering the numerous merits associated with vegetarianism, all development-minded citizens should take steps to adopt a vegetarian diet and encourage the abolishment of the meat-eating culture.
Brown, Lester. “How to feed 8 billion people.” The Futurist 44.1 (2010): 28-33.
EBLEX. ‘Seven ages’ study shows red meat benefits. Mar. 2013. Web.
Fiddes, Nick. Social aspects of meat eating. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 53.1 (2001): 271-280.
Hart, Jane. “The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet.” Alternative and Complementary Therapies 15.2 (2009): 64-68.
Henning, Brian. “Standing in Livestock’s ‘Long Shadow’ The Ethics of Eating Meat on a Small Planet.” Ethics & The Environment 16.2 (2011): 1085-1133.
Holm, Leo. “The role of meat in everyday food culture: an analysis of an interview study in Copenhagen.” Appetite 34.1 (2000): 277-283.
Lusk, Jayson and Norwood Bailey. “Some Economic Benefits and Costs of Vegetarianism.” Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 38.2 (2009): 109–124.
McCarthy, Kerry. Plant-Based Diets: A solution to our public health crisis. Washington: World Progressive Foundation, 2010. Print.
Singh, Pramil and Sabate Joan. “Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans?” Am J Clin Nutr 78.3 (2003): 265-325.