What if you could take a pill that would improve your health, save the environment, and awaken your spirit of compassion ...would you do it? The idea is not as far fetched as you might think. One of the most effective means to achieve all this is by adopting a vegetarian diet. October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, so it is a good time to reflect on the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. The personal health benefits alone are huge, and the benefits of a shift towards a vegetarian diet by society at large are staggering.

Better for Your Health

Consider health. Virtually all the major scientific and medical institutions in the world agree that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other diseases is increased by consuming a meat-based diet consisting of highly processed foods laden with fats and artificial ingredients. These institutions further agree that the risk is greatly reduced by adopting a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet. This result is best achieved by adopting a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of organic produce and natural foods. A vegetarian diet is not only good for one’s personal health; it’s also good for the nation’s economy. Just five diet-related chronic diseases cost the U.S. economy a staggering $864 billion each year! This is an estimate of direct medical costs and the indirect impact of productivity losses due to illness and premature death associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. This is an annual outlay of nearly one trillion dollars! By comparison, it makes the one-time $700 billion Wall Street bailout seem small. If we worried about our health as much as the bailout, perhaps we would all have healthier and happier lives and help the US economy!

Better for the Environment

In contrast, the negative consequences of a meat-based diet are playing out dramatically on the environmental front. In its stunning 2006 report on global warming, the United Nations stated that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 When emissions from land use are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human-related activities, but produces a larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases.2 Livestock generates 37 percent of the total methane, which is 23 times as warming as CO2 produced by human activity.2 It also generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the global warming potential of CO2. Most of these gases come from animal manure and belching!3 Adopting a vegetarian diet could reduce greenhouse gases from this source by 100 percent with little negative impact.4 Similar cuts in carbon dioxide are virtually impossible without having a potentially devastating impact on the economy. Even with implementation of the most ambitious strategies, emissions would be cut by less than half. Furthermore, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years so lowering methane emissions would translate to cooling the earth quickly. The root issue causing global warming is over consumption. A modest American household consumes [as a standard] far more natural resources than the world can support on a sustainable basis.5 The spread of such a lifestyle to the rest of the planet is not feasible. This is particularly true of a meat-based diet, which damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth. In contrast, plant-based diets have a low environmental impact because they use fewer natural resources, so they are better for the environment. Nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance, so eating meat is an unnecessary luxury rather than a necessity.

For the Sake of the Innocent Animals

Each year in the United States, multi billions of animals are inhumanely raised in hellish factory farm conditions and approximately ten billion land animals are cruelly and brutally slaughtered for human consumption. Given the horrific suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the cruel slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong. Animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet, farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions. In this regard, a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our innate spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them. For all these reasons, I submit that the single most important thing an individual can do for their health, for the environment, and for the sake of the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet contributes to better health and a cleaner and safer environment while causing less pain and suffering for the innocent animals. Down to Earth’s slogan is “Love Life!” -based on the idea that it is good to love animals, not eat them.

  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Earth Save, EarthSave Report: A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
  5. “Energy and Sustainable Development,” Berkley Energy Center, City of Berkley, CA: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/energy_and_sustainable_development/