Vegetarianism and Environment Essay Example

A vegetarian can be described as someone who does not eat meat, fish or any other animal products in most cases, because of religious, moral or health reasons. Over time, vegetarians have been looked down upon in the society with few ready willing to take the path to being a vegetarian. However, this has changed with time with people getting to know the benefits that come with being a vegetarian. This has led to a high number of people being vegetarians. Although scientists have not yet established clear explanations of how animal products, especially red meat, lead to some health complications among people, the relation between the two cannot be underestimated. Current paper seeks to discuss the benefits that come with one being a vegetarian and look at why people should strive to adopt this kind of lifestyle for the benefit of their health. The paper further proposes healthy tips that people should adopt as an alternative to animal products.

Benefits of Vegetarianism

One aspect of biomedical research that needs to be first acknowledged is the role the field has played in changing people’s attitude towards vegetarianism. Medical research on the benefits of vegetarianism has led to people realizing that indeed vegetarianism can play a key role in preventing some chronic diseases such as gout (Greeley, 2009). The common belief that a scientific research carried on the effects of red meat gets carried by a small proportion of scientists holds no water. Despite the relatively small ratio of these researches, their outcomes all point to a common conclusion, which is the need for people to adopt vegetarianism.

Red meat can be described as one of the most controversial goods in the history of human nutrition. Despite the fact that human beings have been taking it over the cause of time, many people believe that it can indeed cause harm to human beings. Scientific research has discovered a trend in that people who take less red meat in their diet are less likely to develop lifestyle diseases such as gout (Greeley, 2009). Despite there not being a conclusive explanation to the above observation trend, the observation calls people to adapt to this trend. After all, people stand to lose nothing by taking less of meat in their diets.

As earlier pointed, people choose to become vegetarians for several factors. Among these factors are the apprehension for exceptional wellbeing and the surroundings as well as financial and humankind starvation concerns. Other people may choose to adopt vegetarianism, because of a personal love for animals as well as a belief in being non-violent to these animals (Hobbs & Jacobson, 2010). However, the outstanding factor that should lead people to being vegetarians is the advantages attributed with the lifestyle. It is equally worth noting that people may be converted into being vegetarians for one factor, but later on identifies some other factors, as well. Vegetarian nutrition is more prevalent among young people with eating complications than in the broad population.

Conventionally, study of vegetarianism pointed mainly on latent dietary deficiencies, but in recent years, the pendulum has gone the other approach, and studies are confirming the health advantages of eating diets free from meat (Towns & Towns, 2001). Nowadays, food derived from plants gets recognized as not only nutritionally satisfactory, but also as an approach to minimize the risk for most chronic diseases. In July 2009, the American Dietetic Association came up with a position paper, concluding that properly premeditated vegan diets, together with total vegetarian or vegan diets, are nourishing, nutritionally satisfactory, and may supply health reimbursement in the deterrence and handling of certain diseases (Hobbs & Jacobson, 2010).

Human beings tend to regard with high esteem animal products. Indeed, in some contexts, taking too much of these products gets regarded as being ‘classy’. This should not, however, be the case. Human beings should apprehend that it is their role to protect their health from any nutrition that may put it at risk (Horsman & Flowers, 2007). However, this should not be taken to mean that human beings seize to take these products completely. Some of the animal products, especially white meat from fish and poultry meat, have a wide range of benefits to human beings.

Livestock rearing, according to most vegetarians, has a negative effect on this planet. A vegan suppose that producing foodstuff through mammal farming is unproductive because animal feed production takes up a lot of terrain, manure, water, and other capital. This capital could be rechanneled to providing food for human beings. In the quest for higher yields, most vegans suppose that livestock rearing is accelerating topsoil erosion; reducing its output for the crop growing of crops. A great deal of wasteland gets rehabilitated to grazing and farm land because of this (Horsman & Flowers, 2007). A significant amount of contamination in groundwater and rivers comes from animal desecrate from enormous feedlots and plant farms. This further leads to more harm than good to humankind.

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Eating animal fats and proteins can be indicated in several researches to increase a person’s risk of developing a number of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. The fat composition of cow’s milk cannot be compared to human milk. According to most vegetarians, human beings should not be destined to take cow’s milk, but rather their own milk. Men with early signs of prostate cancer should take fast initiatives to change their diet. This can help terminate or in some case reverse the advancement of their illness (Melina & Davis, 2003). While this may not adequately reverse their health conditions, it can be of high importance in helping such people lead a healthier life and increase the prospect of them living with the disease for a longer time.

Another U.S. research involving 500,000 people identified that people who took red meat as well as other processed animal products died more prematurely than other people. A document taken from Food Technology in October 2012 discusses that plant-based diets either reduce or completely do away with people’s genetic tendency to mounting chronic diseases, such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (Towns & Towns, 2001). Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes hold no cholesterol and are low in fat, particularly inundated fats. Equally, these products provide a lot of fibers and other nutrients. Vegans propose that people should take plant based foods that contain high levels of proteins instead of taking animal products.

In the United States, an estimated 26 million animals get slaughtered every year to cater for the demand for animal products. Out of this number, 65% provide red meat to the market. Using the above data, it can be observed that most of these animals pose a threat of promoting the above discussed diseases. While these figures may seem to boost the agricultural sector in the United States, the impact it has on the health of American citizens cannot be underestimated (Towns & Towns, 2001). This can be attributed as one of the reasons for the increasing number of lifestyle related diseases among people even in their youth. The trend is unlike what got experienced over the past where such diseases got only associated with the elderly.

Another study in the United States indicated that six to eight million grownups do not take meat of other related animal products. According to data released by Vegetarian Resource Group, millions of people are elimination red meat from their diet each year in the US. This trend has been a result of a worldwide campaign by healthcare professionals on the need for people to take less and less of these products. One factor that scientists believe leads to the health risks associated with taking meat is that most of the animals from where these products get obtained get chemically raised with an aim to increasing the rate of their growth. Chemicals get used in these animals. These chemicals, which most remain in the animals’ bodies, in some other forms, get transmitted to human beings when they take these products.

As Marc Bekoff, a professor at the University of Colorado puts it, “some people say without hesitation that they love animal products and then deliberately lack to look at the effects of these products on their health. I am just glad that I do not love these products”. Marc’s statement illustrates the hypocrisy with which human beings treat animal products. While most people will claim that they love animal products, few are willing to look at the effect of these animal products on their health. This love cannot be taken to have good intentions on their health.

One argument that can be put forward to address this issue is the prospect of using the already available knowledge in science to develop less hazardous animal products. Science has come of age, and scientific breakthroughs got made over this time. Why not use this knowledge to work on new breakthroughs instead of subjecting people t a life without animal products? Would not this approach provide equal, if not better, results than boycotting taking animal products completely? Scientists need to work on the viability of the idea posed by these two questions.

Scientific research on animal products has at times indicated that these products can lead to spread of diseases from animals to human beings. In some cases, tests done on animal products fail to indicate infections in these animals at their early stages. In a research carried out by scientists, it got established that continued use of a drug on an animal can lead to the animal developing a resistance to the disease (Nodine, 2009). When people take meat from such an animal, the disease is likely to be passed in a new model to human beings. Many scientists can associate diabetes II with the above finding.

Animal studies on the benefits of taking meat in one’s diet in most cases can be flawed by design. A group of scholars from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center described these studies as having many problems related to the design and logistics followed. “The design of studies on animal products involuntarily reins many variables that can mystify human health” (Tessmer, 2010). These researchers argued that human health disorders resemble those of animals but are rarely identical. However, as long as these disorders are not identical, the level of success of these studies will never be guaranteed.

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The main challenge that health professionals face when trying to explain why red meat is dangerous to human health is the traditional notion, which people get always encouraged to take more of proteins in order to retain their healthy status (Duyff & ADA, 2006). People, however, need to realize that this has changed with time and what was once an advisable idea has turn to be hazardous for human health. This calls for people to change their perceptive towards animal products as the only way to meet protein needs in their bodies. They should seek to adopt plant based food that supply humans with proteins. This happens because animal products, especially, red meat poses a great threat to human health in regard to lifestyle diseases.

One way that health professionals propose that can help reduce the effect of red meat on people’s health is ensuring that this meat gets adequately cooked. Red meat has been known to transmit worms to human beings when not properly cooked. This is because this meat requires to be cooked at high steam levels for these worms to die. However, most people do not seem to prefer this approach since it makes the meat less ‘tasty’ (Duyff & ADA, 2006). As most health professionals would suggest, one cannot eat their cake and still expect to remain with it. In order to address lifestyle disease associated with red meat, people have to be bold enough to appreciate that red meat does not always have health benefits.

Consumption of animal products has raised debate over their impact on human health. Health professionals can be seen to recommend that people take less and less of these products while adopting more grains to their diets. Although there has been little proven explanation that has identified the cause of lifestyle diseases to consumption of animal products especially red meat, research has established a relation between the two. Most lifestyle diseases have been established to be related with consumption of these products. In order to reverse this trend, people should consider adopting vegetarianism. Although some critics argue that there are not clear established benefits of being a vegetarian, the lifestyle can indeed help one avoid some of the health disorders associated with animal products. This may prove a great step towards addressing the issue of lifestyle disorders among people.

Vegetarianism and the Environment

Dietary intake in the world is rapidly changing and most people prefer being vegetarian rather than non-vegetarian. The topic has become increasingly influential within the recent decade, largely due to corresponding scientific research in developed countries. Many scientists, bloggers and scholars have frequently argued on this matter. Some believe that vegetarianism is the best way to save the environment. Those who support vegetarianism argue that the production of animal products causes severe pollution and land degradation. On the other hand, scholars who do not support vegetarianism argue that the production of crops requires the use of chemicals such insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers that cause environmental pollution. Current paper provides an annotated bibliography analysis of eight different sources stating whether being a vegetarian helps the environment in any way. The paper analyzes the sources by providing a summary, assessment on whether the source is useful on this topic and a reflection. Human demand for a healthy diet is the main reason of becoming a vegetarian; vegetarian’s diet impacts the environment positively when compared to meat-based diet.

  • Marlow, Harold J., William K. Hayes, Samuel Soret, Ronals R. Carter, Ernest R. Schwab, and Joan Sabate, “Diet and the Environment: Does What You Eat Matter?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89.5 (2009): 1699S-1703S.

The journal provides an analysis of whether being a vegetarian or non-vegetarian affects the environment. The objective of the study was to compare the environmental impacts of non-vegetarian and vegetarian diets in California. The study was performed by analyzing the level of toxicity produced in the process of manufacturing of both plants and animal products. The outcomes of the study demonstrate that the amount of inputs required in producing non-vegetarian foods were higher that inputs used in producing vegetarian foods. In a deeper analysis, non-vegetarian foods require three times more water than vegetarian foods, thirteen times more manure, two and a half times more energy and one and a half times more pesticides. Marlo et al. (1699) analyze the effects of modern technologies in food production and how it affects the environment. Advancement in mechanization, crop pests control and irrigation has increased the level of environmental pollution. The study indicated that animal production waste in the United States is one hundred and thirty times greater than that of people. If such waste is not treated properly it releases high concentrations of potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen compounds into the environment.

The journal is quite useful in this topic as it offers a detailed analysis of both the impacts of being vegetarian and non-vegetarian on the environment. The journal has used reliable sources that include California state agricultural statistics and product production data. The journal obtained its results from both secondary and primary sources. Primary sources provide firsthand information and, therefore, the source is not biased but objective on the topic. This source is 90% more reliable than the other sources in the bibliography.
The source has proved that both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods have negative impacts on the environment. In comparison, livestock production causes a higher level of toxins emission than crop production. Therefore, being a vegetarian is friendlier to the environment than meat diets.

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  • Pimentel, David, and Marcia Pimentel. “Sustainability of Meat-Based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78.3 (2003): 660S-663S.

Pimentel and Marcia (660) analyze sustainability of crop-based diet and neat-based diet in the United States of America. Four billion people primarily rely on crop products, while only two billion people predominantly rely on meat-based diet. The American food production system relies heavily on fossils. The country uses about 17% of fossils in food production. The level of fossil energy is high and thus, it has proved that production of food in the U.S. is not sustainable. The report analyzes the proportion of land and other resources used in the production of plant-based and meat-based diets. Just in Marlo et al., Pimentel and Marcia (668) state that meat-based diets require more inputs to produce and results in more wastes as compared to human and plant-based diets. Nine million livestock are consumed annually in the U.S. (Pimentel and Marcia, 661). Such quantity of livestock is not enough to feed the American, since it exceeds the human population by approximately five times.

The report is useful in current study due to its analyses of sustainability of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food production. The analysis forms a basis to the study by providing reliable data on energy usage and the level of energy consumption by the two types of diets. The main fossil energy required for crop production includes: pesticides fuel, machinery and irrigation. Input requirements are different depending on the type of crop. The amount of fossil energy required to produce animal products proved to be higher than fossil energy used to produce crops. The data in this report is reliable, since the research used food product with the same calories for both plant-based and meat-based diets.

By reflecting on present report, I discovered that in the U.S.A., the biggest number of people consume plant-based diet. Both plant-based and meat-based diet in the U.S. is not sustainable. Even with a fewer number of people consuming meat than those who consume plants the meat-diet cannot sustain the required meat demand. Meat-diet requires more fossil energy to produce as compared to plant-diet. Fossil energy is not renewable and thus, its exhaustion poses a great danger to the environment and to the economic development in general. The resource is helpful to this study as it provides a guideline that creates awareness on sustainability of vegetarian type of diet and the environment, as well.

  • Leitzmann, Claus. “Nutrition Ecology: The Contribution of Vegetarian Diets.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78.3 (2003): 657S-659S.

Leitzmann argues that the human demand for certain diets determines the welfare of the environment. In return, the environment affects the quality of food produced. Nutrition ecology is the whole process of food chain production that includes harvesting, storage, processing, transportation, trade, packaging, supply and disposal of the waste products. The rise of industrialization and mass production of crop and animal products has resulted in environmental pollution. Studies show that vegetarian diets are suitable in safe-guarding the environment by decreasing the amount of pollution released and stabilizing global climatic changes. Maintenance of the health benefits of vegetarian is paramount and due to its positive relationship with the environment, its status will also improve. Sustainable production of vegetarian diets can be achieved by adopting organic farming and producing food regionally rather than relying on imports. The new type of production ensures that food produced is economically achievable, sufficiently practiced, socially accepted and relatively sustainable (658).

Leitzmann analyzes effects of vegetarian’s diet on the environment by using the dimension of nutrition ecology. His point of view is that the human demand for food affects what the environment will produce. If people demand more meat than food crops then more meat will be produced and less food crop. Nutrition ecology has various disciplines that are interrelated. A number of studies stresses that people should increase consumption of plant-diet and reduce the amount of meat-diet consumed. The content of the journal is useful in present research, since it gives an explanation of how the food chain process starting from production to consumption affects the environment. The study is reliable in researching the topic, since it provides well-guided information on various aspects of the nutrition ecology and how they influence the environment. The journal is not biased in its results; it represents the effects of the whole nutrition ecology on the environment.

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I agree with the author that the best way to reduce waste produce is to consume food from the farm, while it is fresh and avoid processed food. Industrial processes of both plant-based and meat-based food manufacturing contribute to water, air and soil pollution. However, as compared to other sources in the bibliography, current source is not clear enough on how organic farming and use of unprocessed food can be sustainable.

  • Fox, Nick, and Katie Ward. “Health, Ethics and Environment: A Qualitative Study of Vegetarian Motivations.” Appetite 50.2 (2008): 422-429.

The researchers carried out the study with the aim to determine the motivation behind vegetarianism. To do this, the researcher interviewed 33 participants through an online discussion. The study looked at three main motivations: environment, health and ethics. The research was conducted in U.S., UK and Canada. The results showed that ethical treatment of animals and good health are the main motivators of being a vegetarian. A range of participants also reported that the interest of keeping the environment safe was their main motivation. Researches on motivation behind being a vegetarian have found a range of religious reasons of not eating meat. For instance, the seventh day and Buddhism religion believe more in being vegetarian. Some of the vegetarians avoid meat to stay in good health and lose weight. On the other hand, ethical vegetarians avoid meat since they consider it as unethical and immoral to kill animals for a meal. However, data collected showed that a vegetarian chose to avoid meat for health concerns (425).

The goal of this article coincides with the requirements of the research paper by providing reliable information on motivation to become a vegetarian. The article has based its argument on the results obtained from the primary source that is: obtaining first-hand information by conducting a survey on vegetarians from three different countries.
Initial motivation of adopting a vegetarian lifestyle is to achieve the desired health status. The article provides clear evidence that there are various aspects that drive vegetarian’s choice of avoiding meat. There are also other reasons such as ethical issues, religion and environmental concerns. The study shapes the argument of the paper by providing various aspects that lead people to choosing a curtain type of diet and outlining its overall effects on the environment.

  • Tuffrey Laurie. “Can Becoming a Vegetarian Help Save the Planet?” Ecologist. 2012.

Despite the increased concern about environmental impact of meat-based diet, meat consumption has increased by around 20% (Tuffrey 13). Information obtained from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization shows that meat production requires a lot of energy and inputs as compared to production of plant-based diets. Animal welfare is the primary motivator of choosing to be a vegetarian. According to Tuffrey (14), environmental concern ranks second among other reasons that make people choose meat-free meals. The magazine states that most people choose to become vegetarians due to an ethical issue. The study suggests five ways that can help save the environment. People should focus on eating more pulses, lower meat consumption, choose fish, since it considered to be more sustainable than any other source of meat. People should choose to buy food from farms rather than from the supermarket so that to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. People should also choose seasonal food and consume it when it is in plenty.

Present article proves to be very useful for the research, since it provides an explanation on how to sustain the environment. Environment can be maintained by choosing to consume more plant-based diet and reduce meat consumption. The goal of the paper is to make the audience aware of the fact that both plant and meat diets are essential for good health. Therefore, we should use method of keeping the environment safe by reducing meat consumption. Excessive meat consumption leads to land pollution and excessive usage of fossil energy.
By reflecting on this article, I discovered that consumption of meat products has increased despite the ongoing campaigns on reducing meat consumption. Meat production and the decision to rely on meat products for food are not sustainable and lead to environmental pollution.

  • Iacobbo, Karen, and Michael Iacobbo. Vegetarians and Vegans in America Today. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.

Meat production contributes to pollution of the environment through waste products released in the water, manure and fertilizer. Meat production also contributes to air pollution through ammonia produced, hydrogen, dust and manure odor. It is also a major contributor of top soil erosion and disruptor of ecology. Iacobbo and Michael state that any food obtained from animals distresses the environment even if that animal is a bee (94).

The book provides a clear indication on how being vegetarian helps the environment, as well as outlines negative impacts of animal production on the environment. Just like in the other sources (Fox and Katie, and Leitzmann), the source is not biased, but it looks at both the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a vegetarian diet and thus, it is found to be suitable in current study.

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The book provides an analysis of both plant-based and meat-based diet. Not all vegetarians associate environment problems with meat production. Animal right is another aspect that has contributed to the choice of becoming a vegetarian.

  • Metz, Martina, and Ingrid Hoffmann. “Effects of Vegetarian Nutrition–A Nutrition Ecological Perspective.” Nutrients 2.5 (2010): 496-504.

Nutrition is a multidimensional aspect affected by interrelated disciplines. Metz (496) has provided an analysis of how shift in diet has contributed to global environmental changes. Changes in living styles and evolution in industrial production cause pollution leading to environmental problems. Therefore, meat-based diet is not solely responsible for such problems. The four disciplines of the ecological nutrition are the society, the environment, health and the economy. To be in good health, one requires eating fresh food. The health of citizens heavily determines sustainability of economic growth.

Both the environment and the society are responsible for each other. A poor environment cannot produce quality food to the society; likewise, if the society does not take care of the environment then it cannot provide the society with goods of expected quality (498).

  • Baroni, Luciana, L. Cenci, Massimo Tettamanti, and Marina Berati. “Evaluating the Environmental Impact of Various Dietary Patterns Combined with Different Food Production systems.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61.2 (2007): 279-286.

Italian scientists Baroni et al. (2007) dedicated their article to practical research on how various types of diet (omnivore, vegetarian and vegan) affect the environment. Aside from these obvious criteria, the scholars have also introduced the notions of conventional agriculture as opposed to organic farming. The essence of the research lies in a three-week-long examination process over the pre-designed dietary samples.

In my opinion, the paper has its obvious advantages to present research as it uses a good and solid methodology base, a well-designed research scenario and usage of effective software called Sima Pro-5 (p.280). The technique of evaluating how the dietary choices influence the environment is called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

European farms are capable of growing enough fruit and vegetables for the whole EU citizens (including the unregistered immigrants), but cannot provide the land area for breeding cattle and other domestic animals. In order to do both, the farmers must use chemicals and synthesized fodder for their animals. It proves that a meat-eating diet is automatically and inevitably becomes a non-organic eating pattern that includes all types of chemical ingredients unidentifiable for a common consumer Baroni et al. (280).

Current research has proved that production of meat-based diet is not sustainable and it requires a lot of non-renewable resources. Production of meat requires a lot of fossil energy, while plant-based diet requires only a little of it. Vegetarian diet is sustainable and friendlier to the environment as compared to meat-based diet. Analysis of the above sources proves that the meat industry influences ecosystem very much and it would be a real step forward to increase awareness on the importance of adopting a vegetarian diet.