Mike and I recently sat down and watched yet another documentary about plant based diets, called Vegucated. It was just another testimony of why I do what I do every day, and I’m so proud to support my health and the longevity of our great planet. I get asked all the time why I don’t eat meat, and so I thought I would list a few of the reasons. And no, I don’t eat chicken. And no, I will not eat soup if it has chicken broth as the base. And yes, I actually do get enough protein! And yes, I have more than enough energy to get through my day. While I do still eat cheese every once and a while, may or may not be addicted to frozen yogurt and allow myself to have some every now and again, and rarely eat fish, I eat no other products coming from animals. Therefore, I consider myself mostly vegan.
Many of the statistics below I got from Veg Fest in Portland. They put together a great pamphlet, and so I’m simply copying from the pamphlet for the actual numbers, but of course I’m adding my opinion in. I have sources, so if you’re interested, just ask. The other half, I made up. Just kidding! Maybe…
1. Raw meat grosses me out. Yes, it’s true. It always has, even back during the days of college when we used to have weekly cookouts at my house. My guy friends would be elbow deep in muck, marinating the meat and I would be behind them pretending not to gag. I’ve never been able to prepare meat without wanting to hurl, so I used to leave that job up to whoever else was around. When I lived by myself on internship, I would go an entire 2 months without eating meat simply because I hated to prepare it! Even lunch meat was too much… And then I would become OCD about what the meat touched, etc. When I became a vegetarian, it was such a relief because when I cook, I love to sample everything before cooking, and that’s part of the joy of mostly vegan preparation.
2. Greenhouse Gases. This was the reason why I originally went vegetarian, because livestock production generates 18% of greenhouse gases. That is more than all forms of transportation combined (13.5%)!! If you stop eating meat, your carbon footprint is smaller than if you buy a hybrid car. I drive a Prius too, so how small is my footprint?? :) Global warming causes rising sea levels, increasing severity of natural disasters, etc.
3. Pollution: 64% of ammonia emissions come from livestock production. These seep into the air, soil, and water. All those animals? The poop and pee has to go somewhere! It goes into our water supplies, and the gas goes into the air. The demand for meat has risen dramatically, therefore so has the poop and pee… and farts! Pig farts anyone?
4.Energy. The same amount of fuel can produce 1 hamburger or 27 veggie burgers. Feed 1 or 27. You pick. In 2002, more than 1/3 of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S. were used to raise animals for food. Drill baby drill? How ’bout eat less meat?
5.Common Sense. Here’s what I mean: The animals we raise for livestock eat tons of grain. It takes 13 kg of grain to produce only 1 kg of beef. 80% of the world’s soybean crop and more than 50% of all corn go to global livestock. If we simply ate the grains that were raised for animals, it would reduce energy, but it would also feed our hungry children. Here’s some stats: If Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10%, it would free 12 million tons of grain. That’s enough to feed 60 million people. In the U.S. alone, food eaten by livestock could feed 1.3 billion people. To further drive this point in, every 5 seconds, a child dies of starvation. 820 million people in developing countries go to bed hungry every night.
6. Forestry, or lack thereof. 70% of Amazon forests have been turned into grazing land or land to grow soybeans for feed cattle and chicken. And cattle are supposed to eat grass… hello bacteria in the belly, which I’ll get to later. An area of rainforest the size of 7 football fields is destroyed every minute to make room for grazing cattle. And last but not least, 100 species become extinct daily due to tropical deforestation.
7. Livestock is taking over our land. Livestock occupies 30% of the land surface. 80% of agricultural land in the US is used to raise animals for food, only 7% are used for growing plants for humans. In the same time span, the same amount of land can produce 1kg of meat, 160 kg potatoes, 200 kg tomatoes. Hmmm….
8. Water. Agriculture sector uses nearly 70% of world’s freshwater supply, within which the heaviest water use is by the animals we raise for meat. To produce 1 lb of lettuce, it takes 23 gallons of water. 1 lb of wheat takes 25 gallons water. 1 lb of apples takes 49 gallons of water. 1 lb of chicken takes 815 gallons of water. 1 lb of pork takes 1630 gallons of water. 1 lb of beef takes 5214 gallons of water. WOW!
9. Animal welfare. It probably goes without saying that animals that are raised for food production really aren’t treated very well. There are countless videos you can find online of animals being mistreated during the time they’re being raised, transported and slaughtered, and this clearly is not monitored… at all. During the past 50 years, worldwide meat production has increased fivefold. 56 billion land animals are slaughtered globally for human consumption each year, and that is expected to double by 2050. In the U.S alone, more than 9 billion chickens are raised for flesh every year, a million killed each hour. And this free range stuff?? Chickens are required to have 3 feet of space to be considered “free range” and this is not closely monitored by any governing body. Therefore, chickens are still stuffed in warehouses with their “3 feet of space” even though many can’t even walk that far, due to being pumped full of hormones to grow at an exponential rate. Their bodies can’t keep up, they become top heavy and have great difficulty walking around… many suffer from heart conditions and other diseases due to their organs being unable to support their growing bodies appropriately. Pigs are known to be very intelligent, social animals, and they are kept in deplorable conditions, with mamas in tiny cages where they can’t turn over or interact with others. And hello!! Pigs are so cute!
10. Our welfare. Due to the high demand we put on livestock production, they are forced to produce larger animals, more animals, etc. To meet this demand, the animals are crammed into small spaces creating more opportunity for disease, fed despicable food laced with antibiotics to ward off the disease, given hormones for rapid growth, and being raised in unsanitary conditions therefore needing chemical treatment to rid the meat of bacteria. Meat, dairy, fish, and eggs in the market are loaded up with those same antibiotics, chemicals, hormones and bacteria. No wonder we are becoming an antibiotic resistant society, with more food borne illnesses, and spiking cancer rates. Do you really know what you’re putting into your body? We should be nourishing ourselves and our families.
11. The China Study. The China Study, directed by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, is recognized as the most comprehensive study ever conducted that looks at the relationship between diet and risk of disease. Guess what they found? Those communities that ate a plant based diet were disease free or had very low rates of disease in the community. Other communities that incorporated meat into their diet had significantly higher risks of obesity and therefore diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. There are many other studies that have found the same relationship, but this study is by far the best one as it spanned 20 years and looked at over 6000 people. The study advocates a plant based diet free of dairy, processed foods, and meat. It also relates that a plant based, whole foods diet will reduce, prevent and reverse disease. A separate study conducted by Dr. Campbell, but not at all unrelated, was his study of rats. Dr. Campbell had two separate groups of rats, one of which was fed 20% animal protein (casein) and one was fed 5% animal protein. All of the rats that were fed 20% animal protein developed liver cancer, and the ones that were fed 5% animal protein did not. Then, he went even further when he found that he could turn on and turn off the cancer cells by discontinuing feeding the animal protein and starting it back up again, proving that a plant based diet could actually reverse the growth of cancer cells. This is the premise for the Gerson Therapy, a plant based, whole foods diet to reverse diseases such as cancer, heart disease, etc. But since it is illegal in the U.S. to treat cancer with anything other than chemotherapy and radiation, the Gerson clinics are strategically placed outside of the U.S. The meat/dairy industry as well as the pharmaceutical giants have a firm hold on our government and our healthcare system. Therefore, even though we know the solution to our growing problem, money talks. There’s big money in livestock production and drugs. Not so much money in eating well and actually getting healthy, right? Did I go off on a tangent? This happens sometimes…
12. Healthcare costs. We spend a lot of time talking about reducing the cost of healthcare these days. After my last tangent, this one doesn’t need much explanation. Obesity is an epidemic, which is a precursor to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, COPD, etc. etc. Need I go on? We need to start reducing cost of healthcare by thinking about what we are putting into our bodies. People say things to me like, “Adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet is so extreme.” Well, it depends on your definition of extreme, really. I see “extreme” every day, when I see my patients suffering from these diseases. They are living an extreme lifestyle, depending on supplemental oxygen to breathe, taking over 20 prescription drugs to keep their blood pressure down and their glucose levels under control, and relying on open heart surgery to solve their problems. Open heart surgery costs over $300,000 alone, not to mention the follow up and prescription medications that are still required following the procedure. That is what I consider to be extreme, especially when we know that many procedures and medications could be prevented or eliminated with a whole foods, plant based diet.
Ok, so did I get too serious for a while? It goes without saying that I am passionate about the health and wellbeing of others, especially when I see patients daily that could have had a much better quality of life. So, I’ll try to end on a lighter note.
13. Vegetarians are better poopers. That’s right!! Don’t believe me? Eat a lentil/black bean burger with flax seed, put spinach on top and eat it on Ezekiel sprouted bread. You know what you’ll be doing in the morning? Sittin’ on the toilet. More fiber in your diet equals a happier colon that is more regular. More pooping equals less belly bloat and discomfort. Yessir, poopin’ is good. This topic needs a whole ‘nother blog post, so prepare to hear more about this later. In the meantime, here’s a happy song for your morning toilet time.