Vegan and vegetarian diets have incredible benefits, not only for the individual, but for the entire world. A vegetarian diet does not include any animals, meaning meat, fish, and poultry are all excluded from the diet. A vegan follows these guidelines, and does not eat any animal products and by-products such as honey, eggs, milk, and yogurt. These diets are better for the environment, healthier for the individual, and more ethical because of the avoidance of suffering and slaughter of animals.
First, a change of diet can have a positive impact on the state of the environment. “Consumers… are asking for more meat” (Baroni, Cenci, Tettamanti, and Berati 285). Because of the increasing demand, livestock production has increased, and there is a higher need for crops to feed these animals. EU Commission data shows that “Europe can grow enough vegetable proteins to feed all its inhabitants, but not all its farm animals” (Baroni, et al. 284). One in every three people in the world are malnourished according to the World Health Organization, and meat production is not a valuable use of land. Raising animals for food contributes to deforestation, water scarcity, and pollution. For example, “every year 17 million hectares of rainforests are destroyed”, mostly to make space for animal agriculture (Baroni, et al. 284). Also, animal agriculture not only pollutes water, but uses more water than plant production. “Cattle feed on grains; even those which are left to graze need much more water than is necessary to grow cereals” (Baroni, et al. 285). Animal agriculture accounts for 70% of the planet’s freshwater consumption. Baroni and colleagues demonstrate in their study “Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems” that vegetarian and vegan diets can help preserve environmental resources and reduce worldwide hunger.
Additionally, there are many health benefits associated with veganism and vegetarianism. In Girgis’ article “The Reasons for Consuming a Vegetarian Diet in Lebanon and the Survey of its Health Impacts,” she explains that a varied vegetarian diet generally “provides more strength and endurance than a modern meat and sugar diet” (11). According to Girgis, an individual who excludes animals from their diet is less likely to be affected by certain ailments, such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and heart disease (4). Girgis also discusses some common concerns about following strict vegetarian diets, for example, the possibility of lacking protein, vitamin B12, iron, and other nutrients. However, there are many alternatives to meat that contain these nutrients. For example, beans, nuts, tofu, and chickpeas are some of the many vegetarian sources of protein (Girgis 11).
Lastly, it is important to realize the conditions that animals in factory farms endure. Animals in factory farms are killed at very young ages, ending their lives much earlier than their life expectancy. They are subjected to horrible conditions including having no space to move, getting debeaked and put in battery cages in the case of birds, getting their tails cut off (without pain killers) in the case of pigs, being constantly impregnated in the case of cows, and the brutality goes on. Peter Singer’s book, Animal Liberation explains these terrible conditions in detail. There are also many documentaries that demonstrate the techniques used by factory farms, such as Earthlings. Some may argue that it is ethical to eat animals raised in family farms or humane farms. However, with access to so many alternatives, there is no reason to put animals through more suffering than absolutely necessary. These farms may raise animals in better conditions, but unethical techniques are still used in these places and it is nearly impossible to kill animals on a wide scale without causing pain.
Baroni, L., et al. “Evaluating The Environmental Impact Of Various Dietary Patterns Combined With Different Food Production Systems.” European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 61.2 (2007): 279-286. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Girgis, Evelyne M. “The Reasons For Consuming A Vegetarian Diet In Lebanon And The Survey Of Its Health Impacts.” Middle East Journal Of Family Medicine 13.1 (2015): 4-14. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. Print.