Image Source: The Odysessy Online

The argument for vegetarianism ultimately rests on a few basic points:

-Vegetarianism is morally right.

-Meat eating is not “natural.”

-Animal agriculture is destroying our planet.

-Factory farms treat animals deplorably.

Vegetarianism is not difficult. Humans are truly capable of easily obtaining all of our dietary requirements without meat. In fact,  the alternatives to meat are often delicious and worth exploring.

The animal farming industry is a leading perpetrator of rainforest destruction, pollution in the form of chemical and animal waste runoff, and excessive water usage. In fact, the daily water footprint of a vegetarian is one-fourth that of a meat-eater. According to PETA, for every 10 pounds of grain fed to livestock, only one pound of edible meat is produced. If this food was fed to humans instead, world hunger would be greatly reduced.

Quite often, the principal reason many people choose to become vegetarians is that they realize the terrible injustices inflicted upon animals in order to get them from the farm to our plates. Although many of us maintain the image of pigs and cows living quaint lives on the farm and dying in the most humane way possible, this is very rarely the case. Most of the meat we eat comes from large, commercial factory farms that crank out meat as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. Animals are treated terribly on factory farms. Chickens are thrown into grinders; animals are beaten, abused, and confined to tiny spaces with no room to move; many animals are killed in painful, drawn-out ways. Many videos exist on the internet that demonstrate these injustices, and they are very difficult to watch. People often tell themselves they don’t want to watch and would rather continue to enjoy eating meat, blissfully ignorant. But actions like these are exactly what allow this industry to flourish and continue to perpetrate these heinous actions. Ignorance is not bliss. Knowledge is power. It is important to be an informed consumer and not contribute to institutions that are unethical and dangerous to our planet.

Another compelling argument for vegetarianism is the realization that humans are very hypocritical when it comes to our values of which animals deserve respect. People often feel as though cats and dogs are sacrosanct, but farm animals like pigs, cows, and chickens don’t deserve basic rights. The “Cecil the Lion” story is a great example of this phenomenon—the public fumed that someone would be insensitive enough to kill a lion loved by so many. But in reality, there is nothing about that lion that makes it more deserving of respect and a full life than any other living being in existence. All animals (including humans) deserve basic rights to space, respect, and a good experience of the world not tainted with constant suffering.

One argument constantly made by meat-eaters, and one that prevented me from becoming a vegetarian sooner, is that killing other animals is “natural.” People say we are simply part of the food chain, and many animals kill other animals to stay alive just as we do. Although this might have been true thousands of years ago when we weren’t advanced enough as a species to live off other sources of food, there is no excuse for it today. Many social scientists agree that there is something inherently different about humans, setting us apart from any other animal: empathy. As humans we can truly, deeply comprehend the implications of our actions, and thus, have a natural desire to do what is right. No human wants to cause an unnecessary amount of violence in the world or harm other beings when it is avoidable.

Eating meat is not necessary; there are so many alternatives to meat, which are just as tasty and filling as meat. In fact, without meat, unhealthy cholesterol and saturated animal fat levels fall considerably. For this reason, vegetarians experience lower rates of heart disease and cancer risk. Also, vegetarians consume more fiber and antioxidants because of their increased intake of fruits and vegetables. Many Americans do not consume enough of these nutrients in their traditional diets, and to their misfortune — this lifestyle has many positive bodily effects. The concern that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein is simply invalid. Meat can be easily replaced with protein-rich power foods like beans, nuts, legumes, grains, soy, and quinoa.

Becoming a vegetarian allows for the expansion of one’s palate and the discovery of many new, delicious foods. When I became a vegetarian, I began trying many foods I was reluctant to taste before. I also discovered that what I loved about my favorite menu items at many restaurants wasn’t meat. Nearly every restaurant has a convenient vegetarian variation of the items they traditionally offer. These options often taste just as good, tend to be cheaper than their meat-containing counterparts, and are lighter and healthier on average.

Avoiding meat is genuinely much easier than it seems, especially if one holds strong beliefs and visuals in his or her mind of the kind of damage done when contributing to the meat production industry. I urge everyone to attempt to reduce his or her intake of meat. Even if it’s just one day per week or one meal per day, it is a step in the right direction. Also, it is important to educate other people about these issues so that people aren’t unknowingly contributing to an industry with which they don’t agree. Over time, and as more and more people join in on this movement, real, observable progress will be made, and posterity will thank us for it.