THE 3 reasons to give up meat (and 1 not to).

Via on Aug 25, 2010

THE 3 reasons to be vegetarian.

I’m not talking about:

  • > Vegetarians who take it literally – eating nothing but vegetables.
  • > Lazy vegetarians, who eat pizza for dinner, left over pizza for breakfast, and pasta with a jar of tomato sauce for lunch. They’re not real vegetarians. They’re just pretending, and it won’t last.
  • > Self-righteous moralizing goody-goodies who like to make other people feel bad by making themselves feel better; trying to convert them to become as self righteous as they are. That’s not what it’s about. They just didn’t grow up yet. They will.

The real vegetarians are people who know what I’m talking about…they eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, grains, seaweeds…and whatever other yummy stuff they can get their hands on (okay, apart from meat – more on that later). They also recognize that in order to really feel their best, some spiritual practice is required. So as well as eating a balanced diet, they live a balanced life: striving always for the proper mix of material and spiritual aspiration.

So, three reasons you should either pat yourself on the back for keeping it real, or consider changing to a healthier, more sustainable, and ethical way of eating:

1. Your Health

I don’t care what anyone says. Yes, you’ll find doctors who disagree with me on this, but I wouldn’t pay much attention: doctors, despite their many years of brainwashing (oops, did I say that out loud?) education often haven’t got much of a clue about what health is. They’re too busy fixing problems.

Being vegetarian is much better for your health than eating a diet that includes animal products.

Rather than asking doctors for unbiased truth, you’re better off asking insurance salesmen. I know that might sound funny but I’m very serious (as always): there’s a lot of money in insurance. That means that they get things right. So ask your insurance company – do they give better premiums for people who are vegetarian? Often they do – why? Because they know that there is less chance you’ll get heart disease or cancer (two of the biggest causes of premature death?) if you’re vegetarian. They know that as a vegetarian, you’re more likely to live longer, and they’re less likely to pay out. Yup, it comes down to simple economics.

So, why is it healthier to be vegetarian?

Why do we eat? Primarily for energy. That energy comes from the sun. All energy comes from the sun, in one way or another. (Even oil, when you think about it, is bottled sunlight – sunlight that fell to the earth millions of years ago and was fossilized and buried for a long time, but sunlight nonetheless!)

When you eat a plant-based diet, you are getting that sunlight directly:

  • Plant absorbs the sun’s energy
  • Photosynthesis occurs
  • You eat the plant, and
  • Bingo! You absorb the energy and feel goood!

When you eat a meat-based diet, you are getting second hand sunlight:

  • Plant absorbs sunlight
  • Photosynthesis occurs
  • Cow eats plant
  • Digests plant and
  • Gets sunlight directly
  • Then you eat the cow, and
  • Get a little of that sunlight, but let’s face it, not much.

To digest that meat takes a lot of work for little energetic reward. It’s not worth it!

Health (as I said in the article linked to above) is not just about avoiding sickness. It’s about feeling fantastic. Yes, there are many people who eat meat and avoid sickness, there’s no disputing that. However, I believe that generally, it’s possible to feel more fantastic eating a vegetarian diet than it is eating meat. The reason being simply that your body will be lighter – yes, most likely in terms of weight, but also and more importantly in terms of photons. Your body actually contains light. You are light. That’s why we eat sunlight and drink water. That’s what we are.

‘Yes’, I hear you say, ‘but we’re also meat’. Well, sure, but do you want to feed the dense, gross, material aspect of yourself, or the subtle, light, spiritual aspect of yourself. That’s what it comes down to on the issue of health, and I know what I choose.

You are what you eat. The reason it’s a cliché is because it’s true – every culture has an equivalent saying. However, and please pay close attention to this: it’s not just your body that IS what you eat. It’s every aspect of you. What you eat is reflected in your thoughts, your desires, your senses, your emotions, your deeper feelings… every aspect of your consciousness. YOU ARE what you eat.

2. The Environment

Our environment is… messed up. (I’m trying to give up swearing. It’s tough sometimes. This is one of those times).

‘What has the environment got to do with meat’ you might ask? Well, a lot.

As Ramesh Bjonnes pointed out in his recent article on the connection between meat consumption and global warming, the meat industry is now considered by many to be the leading contributor to global warming; more so “than all forms of transportation combined”! Wow. Or as they say here in Slovenia, land of forested hill-top churches and castles and bees: Uau.


  • Meat is not economically viable: it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh.
  • A huge amount of land is required to graze livestock and grow the grain necessary to feed that. That land could be put to much better use. Not to mention the issues of soil erosion, desertification, and threat to indigenous species that are implicit with overgrazing. Or the rain-forests that have been cut down to make space for that land…
  • The meat industry pollutes massively. The VAST amount of water necessary for the rearing of animals and  growing their feed, gets polluted; the land gets polluted (from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.); eutrophication occurs.
  • The meat industry is responsible for biodiversity loss on the planet. Care much about the thousands of species that are becoming extinct every year?

3. The Animals

There are about 6 billion of us humans on the planet. Each year in the U.S. alone (not counting China, or Europe, or anywhere else – just the U.S.) around ten billion animals are slaughtered (source: Wikipedia). I believe this may be a very conservative estimate – I’ve seen estimates of up to 40 billion. Nevertheless, if you think of this on a global scale, and then factor in the fish: you realize that the meat industry is actually responsible for the slaughter of many, many times more beings than there are people on the planet. Each year it starts all over again. How many animals and fish is that in my / your lifetime? I dread to think, but if you want you can do the math.

However, that’s only one side to the story: how a being lives is more important than how it dies. How do the vast majority of these animals live: in squalor and without dignity. Think of the worst Nazi concentration camp, and you’re halfway there.

I have no quarrel with killing an animal for food. Try telling the Inuit that they shouldn’t eat fish, or the indigenous people of Tibet that it’s cruel to eat Yak – they’ll laugh long and loud.

But what a difference there is between killing an animal with respect and dignity, out of necessity, and ‘growing’ animals industrially with no basic rights (fresh air, clean water, a little space) in order to slaughter them in a manner that is at best cruel, but usually amounts to torture.

Scientists tell us that everything is energy. What happens to the energy of suffering, pain, and indignity caused by our meat industry? Because you know, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted to another form. What happens to that energy I wonder? What happens to it…?


Well, I’ve listed 3 good reasons to give up eating meat. For the sake of balanced and unbiased journalism, let’s at this point ask: ‘what are the reasons for eating meat?’

There’s only one good argument that I’ve heard for eating meat: it tastes good. It’s a great reason, because it’s honest. To many people, it does indeed taste good. I myself must admit to occasional cravings.

However, if we’re really truthful with ourselves, we see that in no way can a meat-based diet be justified; in the light of the environmental, economic, ethical, and health crises that we are living through today, giving up meat is quite simply one of the smartest, and best choices you can make.


Share this blog post on your social media, give it a facebook ‘like’, and send the link to your (furry or not) friends.

Spread the word.

Giving up meat is the single biggest contribution you can make to a sustainable, ethical, and healthy future.



Suite 101

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston almost joined the army when he was 18. When he was 32 he almost became a Swami. *** Now he is a healer, Reference Point Therapy teacher, and advanced Yoga instructor in the Sivananda tradition . His work as a healer acknowledges trauma as the underlying cause of almost all human problems, and resolves trauma at the causal level: gut-based survival instincts. The intention behind all his work is to empower others. *** Ben splits his time between his busy international practice, training therapists, and writing. As an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher he also runs retreats, usually on the beautiful Croatian coast. *** Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)


173 Responses to “THE 3 reasons to give up meat (and 1 not to).”

  1. […] things that brought this home to me very clearly was a comment that a reader left after my article The 3 Reasons to be a Vegetarian. Calling himself simply ‘Omnivore’, this person said that despite having had been raised a […]

  2. Patrick S. says:

    Dammit, thought I found a good article to show my friends up until you started talking about the non-sense that is global warming. ;-/

  3. […] This entry was posted on February 18, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a […]

  4. Szilvia says:

    Tastes great? Haha… Tastes great because you use soooo many different vegetables to hide the real taste of meat…

  5. Gee says:

    You're promoting vegetarianism, which is amazing. But…………. calling people like me lazy vegetarians (which… kinda true), because we don't choose to be VEGAN and thus not "real" vegetarian feels like an oversight: there is a huge difference between vegans and "regular" vegetarians and there are a gazillion ways of being a vegetarian/vegan just at that (eating no meat, but fish/ no fish, meat or dairy etc. etc. etc.). But bless you for spreading other knowledge :)
    A lazy vegetarian going on 8 years strong

  6. yogajanet says:

    Humans are omnivores.

    Science is being abused on this thread and on countless others across the internet. It is used like a cudgel to prove points, pro, con, and who knows what. I wish people would stop posting their opinions and thoughts by backing them up with "science." Where are the getting their numbers from? Who has done the research? It seems that just about anyone can tack on some stats and call what they are using as their reasoning, scientific research. The internet and all the links people cherry pick has become a techno "Tower of Babel" of sorts. I prefer clear facts that are backed by sound science…sound science being as unbiased as possible and from a reputable source.

  7. oz_ says:

    Vegetarian myths: misleading at best, disingenuous at worst.

    The problem with your analysis is it does not include examination of industrial vs non-industrial styles of growing or raising food. For example, your comparison against meat is based on feedlot, or industrial meat production. If you look at pastured, free range meat, then two of your three points become invalid, and one becomes flat out false.

    It's not meat that's the problem: it's industrial food production. This is true for health, it's true for ethics, it's true for the environment.

    In terms of veggie production: do you have any idea of the massive ecological damage that industrial agriculture has wrought?? (Note that organics represent only 3% of food sales – and if you want t point to organic veggies, well, then you'd have to address the organic meat production issue, too, to be fair) And yet – there's no reference to any of that in your article. No reference to dead zones caused by runoff of synthetic fertilizers, no reference to topsoil degradation, nor to topsoil losses. It takes nature about 500 years to create an inch of soil – industrial ag has resulted in the loss of over 10 feet of soil in many farming regions over the last 50 years. No reference to GMOs or pesticide residues. Perhaps worse, no reference to the plight of migrant workers – who do you think harvests all of those veggies, and are you aware of the conditions under which they are forced to labor??

    I'm sorry, but any article that espouses eating still more veggies because of the conditions under which feed animals are kept without referencing this human cost is an article not to be taken seriously, in terms of ethics.

    Further, you don't consider the cost to animals – or the biosphere as a whole – of the 3.8 billion hectares globally of land used to grow food that are permanent animal exclusion zones. Growing vegetables BEGINS with killing off all the moles, voles, shrews, gophers, etc – and then using pesticides to kill off any animals that dare to try to access these 'animal-free zones'; – this is somehow 'good for animals'?

    Here is a fact: bison ranchers in the Great Plains are doing more for 'the environment' – aka ecosystem restoration – simply by maintaining the mere *presence* of that keystone species in its native habitat, than vegetable growers worldwide, UNLESS we're talking permaculture (but of course, permaculture plantations would also welcome wildlife and integrate livestock).

    I'm always suspicious of articles that purport to render complex issues simple because they tend to miss so many of the crucial details and thus put forth flawed conclusions – this one is no exception.

    • FormerVegetarian says:

      Oz, you seriously took most of the words out of my mouth. THANK YOU for your response! If you are going to write an article like this, you damn well better include ALL the points to ponder. j have no problem with people choosing one way or another. I do have a problem with articles telling me why I should “be” something when its not backed with all points to be considered. Well-said!

    • Patricia says:


    • hugh says:

      Nailed it. ITs all very well for some people to go vegetarian, but its impossible on a large scale. for starters, it doesnt help animals. if the meat industry ends, all meat producing animals would have to be slaughtered. they cant be released because they would cause massive damage to the environment as ferals. in australia, feral pigs are a massive problem. multiply that by a thousand if all animals are let free. secondly, there just isnt enough land suitable for growing vegetables. again looking at australia, sheep and cattle are raised in large numbers in the outback. crop cannot possibly survive out there. so in order to have enough grazeable land, logging would have to increase massively. then, to protect the crops from destruction by wild animals, there would have tp be massive culling of species that threateb crops.

    • hugh says:

      The biggest problem isnt eating meat. its the scale. in america, feedlots etc are necessary because there are 300 million plus americans to feed. but its inefficiebnt, as stated in the article. australia is lucky because we have a lot of land with little urbanisation. so the real issues are economics and population. Farmers need incentives to be more environmentally friendly. i dont see what makes this guy think that crop is so much more earth friendly. The scale of crop needed to feed everyone would be out of control. the real problem is seven billion people, not what they eat but how much

  8. rene says:

    I bet giving up meat would not be so pleasing for all meat eaters…..

  9. Grey says:

    Reading these comments makes me want to become an atheist Republican who only eats bacon pizza =/

  10. jess says:

    what about all the chemicals in plant food today

  11. Hayley says:

    As a recent vegetarian (going on 8 months) contemplating whether or not it's the right lifestyle to stay with, this article is very interesting. I find myself falling into your "lazy vegetarian" category, but hey, I'm in college. We get a pass with eating poorly because of no time for cooking and no money for delicious, but oh so expensive, groceries. I will say I find the energy part a little misinforming. We can't digest plants very well, the vast majority of plant matter (cellulose) goes right through us. So while yes, we do get a lot of nutrients, there's a lot left we need to makeup for, and the overwhelming majority of meat (protein) is digested. That stuck out to me as a little far stretched, but I still enjoyd the article quite a lot and am using it as a tool when deciding my path! Thanks Ben!

  12. Jeffrey says:

    Ben~Thanks for re-introducing this conversation and attempting to appear do so in a non-biased, non-self-righteous way. It cracks me up how in some comments you advocate compassion toward animals yet assume a snarky tone toward your fellow human beings – you sneaky thing you.

    My own history: At 20 years old, born and raised on meat and potatoes and chocolate chip cookies (and beer) in cow country Texas, I felt sluggish and dumb (go figure). With a friend's suggestion and then reading in a Krishna restaurant the very sunlight energy-based argument you made (which was easily diagrammed), I gave myself a 6-week experiment: to learn how to cook & eat a strictly and healthy vegetarian diet and to see how I felt. After 6 weeks, my wind was so clear, my body energized, I dropped meat without ever looking back for a long time. However, I avoid fanaticism of all ilks and on one hand politely have challenged the Dogma of Karma that pals like David Life and others around Woodstock pronounce; and on the other hand I used to question why some people claimed their bodies eventually needed meat.

    At 43, I contracted Lyme disease twice in 11 months, both times followed by volatile antibiotic treatments. During that time – with other contributing and coincidental stressors (house fire, first baby born) – my digestion went nuts, I contracted numerous food sensitivities, my stamina went to ground zero, and I had a peculiar muscular pain-to-belching correlation that made doctors and healers shrug their shoulders and suggest I charge admission. For four years. I was 46 and felt as if my body had aged 30 years. My nervous system was shot, and I could be a son of a bitch to be around – unlike the calm sattvic I was a few years before. I had already sworn off all gluten and processed sugar. No cow dairy. Zero alcohol. But I was ill with fever almost every 3-4 weeks. I have had an advanced daily asana, pranayama, and mindfulness practice for over a dozen years that helped me navigate this period.

    Last May, my wife – with advanced training in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western & Eastern herbalism, chronic Lyme treatment, and diet – diagnosed me with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (something many people with Lyme and with this particular antibiotic treatment contract). It was the first diagnosis that made sense and that listed every weird symptom I had. She asked if, after 27 years of eating a vegetarian diet, if I would try eating our neighbor's grass-fed organic beef for 6 weeks to see if we could rebuild my immunity. I agreed. It worked. I hadn't felt so clear and "energetic" in over 4 years. The funny thing: My central nervous system calmed down perhaps because my body was finally absorbing nutrients. I became more peaceful yet energetic when I started eating meat – in this context. This diet accompanied with zero grains (no rice, no flour) and then more raw foods salads and daily morning raw juicing plus learning how to combine foods as well as in what sequence to eat foods has returned my stamina to pre-Lyme levels, cleared my mind even more so, and helped me maintain more equanimity. I continue to eat local grass-fed meat every day.

    I offer this detailed account not to project my own subjective experience onto others and to generalize what is right for everyone but to redirect the conversation – not the argument – to something that I could not compute ten years ago: That one's dietary needs and ethos require a clear understanding of one's unique circumstances (without recourse to rationalizing what one "wants"). Note: I am not arguing here. Nor am I justifying as I do not need to prove to anyone my choices. Human beings suffer. Genuine conversations more than snarky arguments often lead toward more realization and healing (although not necessarily to more blog visits and traffic).

    I'm also reminded of three key teachers:
    My Zen mentor John Daido Loori, one of the world's most adherent Zen abbots, ate meat. He lived the dharma more than by dogma.

    Sri Krishnamacarya, my teacher's father, noted that we human beings cannot live a day without doing violence and that we should not get self-righteous about being non-violent because self-righteousness is another covert form of violence.

    Lao Tzu observed that the wise man does not argue.

    It's taken me a long time appreciate all of that wisdom.

    Best to you in your endeavors and on your path, and thanks again for opening this conversation and allowing me to share my experiences.

    • TJ says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      I was touched by your story and also appreciate the additional knowledge I gained while reading. Are you on Facebook? May I share your story?



  13. Margarita says:

    Stopped reading when I saw Wikipedia as your source. Really? Wikipedia? What’s next? You’re going to use Dr. Oz as a source too?

  14. TJ says:

    Promoting giving up meat alienates too many people and in the long run doesn’t get a large enough percentage of the population to consider its cause. What has worked for me and works to this day, is the dramatic reduction of the amount of meat I consume, not giving it up completely. How this looks mathematically? The easiest way to illustrate it; 75 to 85 percent of the time my diet consists of vegetarian/vegan foods, half of that time they are raw. The other 15-25 percent makes up various types of meat and dairy. Abiding to this ratio has served me well and allows me to have those more conventionally cooked meals when I’m out with friends or at a family members house if that’s what I choose. Too many times in the past, on a strict vegetarian only die,t did I have to turn down meals from friends and family that contained meat or dairy ingredients in them because of my self imposed restrictions, even though at the time my mind, body, and spirit wanted to participate in the sharing of those meals.

    So now, instead of teetering back and forth between a strict vegetarian diet and one made up mostly of meat and dairy, I eat meat or dairy if it feels right and as it turns out, it feels right 15-25 percent of the time.

  15. bbridsonb says:

    Disagree that it won't last; I've been a lazy vegetarian for 6 years :)

  16. luckigrrl says:

    The only reason why I eat meat is because I have hypoglycemia. That doesnt mean I eat mounds of meat all day but kind of like a supplement. If I just eat veggies all day I dont feel good but the moment I pop some meat in my diet I can see better, think better and feel better. I think it has something to do with how my body processes food and the amount of proteins I need per day. Now I can eat spinach all day long and other veggies (i eat 3x a day) but I add a very small portion of meat to feel balanced. I know there are people out there who can be real vegans but not this girl. :) thats where i say go PALEO!

  17. Kim says:

    Ben – great piece, and I agree with you. The energy – Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh discusses this very thing in the first chapter of his book, Anger. Similar to what Deborah Tracy conveys here. Anyway, my friend, you handle controversy well. Keep on keepin' on.

  18. WTF says:

    Awesome read. Especially your theory on humans being made of light & water…that explains a lot & makes total sense as to why we feel so energetic & more spiritual on a plant based diet. I must disagree with you though on the ONE reason to eat meat & that it ‘tastes good’! The fact is -meat is a little protein & a lot of fat. Fat contains no flavor (think of eating a stick of butter or a raw steak) there would be no flavor! So what you’re actually saying is that the additional flavoring added to meat tastes good-not the actual piece of raw flesh itself. Thanks for the read & ‘clarification’ at the beginning-was well written!

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thanks WTF, but I have to point out that fat is a very necessary part of our diet, and one that many people don't get enough of. One of the main reasons (I believe) so many people DO love the taste of meat is precisely BECAUSE it contains a lot of fat. Fat is good, fat is tasty. Butter makes toast taster better, (good quality) oils are essential to good cooking… think of a pasta dish with no olive oil.

  19. WTF says:

    Also! For people who aren’t convinced that the animal industry isn’t destroying our ecosystem/world check this United Nations discussion on why they may start pushing for veganism. Think of how healthy we would be, how inexpensive healthcare would be, and how cheap produce would be if we all ate more fruits, veggies & grains..:)

  20. Auki says:

    Reason 4: It's better karma not to kill another being to eat & not to support killing with your consumer dollars.

    Reason 5: Factory meat-farming is just plain evil!

    Reason 6: If you don't eat meat your light will be brighter & your vibration will be higher and finer.

    Reason 7: You will feel better & your conscience will be clearer too!

  21. Why vegetarian? Why not vegan? The milk industry is around half as bad for the environment.

  22. R•••• says:

    I am a vegetarian and some of what you mentioned is good, but when you started talking about health you started losing credibility! Photons and absorbing sunlight…! all doctors are biased and brainwashed? sorry but you made no sense at all! yes I know that the human body emits light but it's a response to invisible light (fluorescence process) not what we eat. No matter what your point of view is, you have to e ready to demonstrate with honesty and sounds recourses that what you are saying is not biased. cheers

  23. Melissa says:

    I disagree with the 3rd reason for the animals is not a reason. If you are a vegetarian and not a vegan your are still exploiting and disrespecting animals. I agree that vegetarian is better then a meat eater, but you are not doing it for the animals…Lets be honest.

  24. Denise says:

    For nine years i was an ovolacto veggie. I raised my own chickens so i knew my eggs came from birds who were treated like beloved family members but must admit to being ethically lazy when it came to the dairy. Unfortunately for me, even with tons of iron in my diet and prescribed iron supplements, I could not keep a healthy iron or hemoglobin level. I tried everything but was on the border of needing a blood transfusion seven months into my second pregnancy. I started eating meat again. I got better. My hematologist told me that for some reason, some people only absorb "heme iron" which is blood based and not "non heme" sources like veggies and supplements. I turned out to be one of those people.

    • Sherry Hoff says:

      This is because our bodies are adapting to our meat based diets. Adaptation occurs within all animals and plants. Look at the plants that have learned to grow through our terrible poisons we inject into the ground. A plant based diet is the healthiest of all diets and you can argue things like meat tastes good… But you can’t argue the health benefits.

  25. Gabi says:

    Like most things in life (religion for example) there is no standard definition for being a vegetarian. There are so many reasons for a person to stop eating meat and there isn’t one that is more “right” than the other. I eat fish though so technically I am a pescatarian And whenever people find this out they question why I eat fish but not other meat… Because it’s a personal choice and I do what makes me happy and comfortable. I don’t do it for health reasons or because it’s the in thing to do. I stopped eating meat 12 years ago because of a health class I had in 5th grade. I don’t judge people who eat meat or vegans. So let us “lazy vegetarians” be, you self righteous punk (trying not to swear). Enjoy your seeds.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Don't try too hard. Just go with what your body tells you. Meat is fine, if that's what you need. My position since I wrote this article has changed quite a lot.
      Some people are suited 100% to vegetarianism – they don't need, or want, meat.
      Others need and / or want it, and it's better to listen to your body and feed it intuitively, than it is to impose a 'diet' because of a dogma or belief.

  26. thecoconutter says:

    While I fully salute you from a moral and environmental standpoint, I have to contest you on the health aspect. Try living with a fructose intolerance (increasingly common today) and eating a healthy vego diet. Not viable at all. It's funny, I heard so much for so long about being plant based, I tried it with my whole heart and I just felt cold, tired and had a stomach ache.

    I've been to three different therapists recently, one a nutritionist, one a naturopath (ex-vegan, now Paleo and happy) and a leading Chinese medicine practitioner. Every single one has recommended bone broth, eggs, fish and some meat. I've had real results, feeling so grounded and well. Also, my cholesterol is as good as an optimally nourished vego (I know because my nutritionist friend and I had tests done at the same time – my iron was way higher too as were my Bs).

    There are many cultures who live on a diet which includes animal products and are very healthy with low incidences of heart disease. I really thought we'd gotten past the, 'this is healthier than this' attitude, physiologically, people are very different – diet really is individualised and only the individual will know what is best for them.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      My position since I wrote this article has changed quite a lot.
      Some people are suited 100% to vegetarianism – they don't need, or want, meat.
      Others need and / or want it, and it's better to listen to your body and feed it intuitively, than it is to impose a 'diet' because of a dogma or belief.

  27. Delcasart says:

    The comparison between the two ways to "get the sunlight" is not completely accurate. A cow's digestive system is far better at doing this than ours; digesting herbs is so hard that cows have several stomachs to do it. That is why eating herbivores meat is a very efficient way for us to get energy: it is already "processed" and concentrated.

  28. Mashka says:

    While I agree with an overall argument, I think there is an important point missing, namely around dietary / nutritious side of things, and energy (produced and used by our body when we eat different stuff) and satiety – which is linked to how long we stay full for / how quickly we get hungry. I also have a sensitive stomach which means I have to go easy on pulses and raw produce overall.
    Although I'd love to completely eradicate meat from my diet (for both ethical and nutritious reasons) so far I have not been able to.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Don't try too hard. Just go with what your body tells you. Meat is fine, if that's what you need. My position since I wrote this article has changed quite a lot.
      Some people are suited 100% to vegetarianism – they don't need, or want, meat.
      Others need and / or want it, and it's better to listen to your body and feed it intuitively, than it is to impose a 'diet' because of a dogma or belief.

  29. Matt says:

    more pics of Alicia SIlverstone please.

  30. Scott says:

    Hi Ben,

    I must commend you on your passion for your lifestyle choices and you structure a very coherent argument about vegetarianism. I personally agree with a lot of the points you raise and quite enjoy vegetarian meals on an occasional basis. I also think you have sparked some excellent discussions on this forum and for that I commend you.

    The biggest flaw I have with your initial point is the wording that "all energy comes from the sun". As a person who is highly logical and interested in science this could not be more wrong. Without going into too much detail, the sun is just a galactic body that burns certain fuels to produce heat and light. Very basic definition I know but that is essentially it. It does not provide the nutrition and dietary requirements that humans require to survive. Based on your argument that plants are a more direct route to this energy, wouldn't standing in the sun and directly absorbing this 'energy' be even more direct? Aside from the painful sunburn and skin cancer this would lead to it is just a bad point to have put in your initial thesis.

    I have also considered that this may be a spiritual component of your beliefs about energy and whatnot but then putting this as a fact is not advisable.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy the long and healthy life that your vegetarianism provides for you.

    • Sam says:


      In fact, energy (on Earth) does indeed come from the sun. Plants and some algae are able to convert solar energy (radiation) into stored chemical energy (sugar) which is then consumed by animals. Energy is only converted but never destroyed, which is why you can derive things like fossil fuels (animals that have died, been packed under dense Earth, and later excavated by us to use as energy/fuel sources) from them.

      The reason humans (or most animals) are unable to acquire energy with which to power their life functions by standing in the sun, as you suggested, is that we lack the cellular apparatus (chloroplasts) to convert solar energy into the chemical energy form that our bodies have evolved to utilize.

      Please let me know if this is not clear because it is a very basic and important concept in biology that I would hope most people could understand.

  31. Maura says:

    So true Ben. Thank you. I love the quote about the energy.

  32. LMAO says:

    LMAO AT #1

    oh my god the sunlight equals all energy explains all the idiot veggies


  33. Kevin says:

    Your assumptions about health go against what people who actully study this find….

    “Overall, our findings reveal that vegetarians report poorer health, follow medical treatment more frequently, have worse preventive health care practices, and have a lower quality of life.”

    “they’re more likely to have cancer, food allergies, and anxiety or depression. ”

  34. Todd says:

    How funny to say:
    "Self-righteous moralizing goody-goodies who like to make other people feel bad by making themselves feel better; trying to convert them to become as self righteous as they are."

    And then follow that only two sentences later with:
    "They just didn’t grow up yet. They will."

    Irony overload!

  35. hoovestailsandpaws says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for writing this article. In fact, I have forwarded this to a couple of meat eating indecisive family and friends who are on the fence on wanting to go vegetarian. I did find the snippet up front a bit judgmental about the different types of vegetarianism.

    I was the lazy vegetarian, however i am now a strict vegan. I think we all have to start somewhere, and by putting down someone who has the seed planted in them, it only ruins it and i think would make them turn the other way.

    I also felt that the snarky tone didn’t mesh well with the rest of your article, which reads to me as compassion for animals, environment, etc.

    I appreciate all the comments too. I saw your replies to some other articles as well and it was a bit disappointing, i felt like maybe you were being a bit defensive.

    I have only been vegan for half a year now, and am constantly trying to find articles that talk about the environmental effects, etc.

    I recently came across the website mercy for animals, and this is why i chose to become vegan:

    The Plight of Farmed Animals

    Over 95% of the cruelty to animals in the United States occurs at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries which confine, mutilate, and slaughter over 8 billion land animals each year.

    Despite the fact that these are the most abused animals in the United States, they actually have the fewest number of advocates. That is why it is so important that we stand up and become a voice for the most defenseless.”

    So I appreciate your intention and your article, i just wish it was consistent with it’s tone throughout.

  36. Through the partaking of animal flesh, you are also taking into your body the very act of aggression as well as the fear and anxiety the animal experiences leading up to its death at an energetic level. If you would like to live a life free of those conditions which only lead to suffering, then giving up meat is a requirement. Vegetarianism is a shift in the way one relates to their surroundings at so many levels which always starts with the relationship you have with yourself.

  37. Stacie says:

    Yes, I have been a life long vegetarian thanks to my father (studying with the yogis). Never had one health problem related to not eating meat, nor tried it, nor want to. For sure it is a key to helping humanity, healing the planet and ourselves.

  38. Chrissy says:

    I think there is a much broader discussion to be had about the health pros and cons re: eating meat vs being vegetarian. The above points seem to come from a pretty narrow perspective. I've been suffering from a chronic auto-immune disease for the past couple of years which I've been slowly healing via Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy and Nutrition. I rarely ate any meat prior to beginning my healing process… when first speaking to my Chinese Dr who is also a Nutritionist the first thing she told me was that I had to eat more red meat as my body wasn't getting enough complete proteins to heal the tissue damage on my internal organs from my illness. Yes, there are other forms of protein that aren't meat based but a) I'm not allowed to eat soy/tofu because of the way it affects me hormonally and for various other health precautions and b) it's rare that a person is able to get the right type and amount of protein from non-meat sources. The reasons behind this are too vast for me to explain (I'm not a qualified health expert) on this post but as I said, I think a more broad perspective on whether being vegetarian is healthy for everyone should be discussed and explored.
    Let me also just add that alongside this "eating meat is sometimes necessary for your health" view – my healing process includes 70% alkaline eating, cutting out sugar, minimising processed dairy and gluten. This isn't some sort of pharmaceutical "brainwashing", as you say, that many Drs prescribe.
    I'd also like to add that whilst the way meat is farmed is indeed often hazardous for the environment so is the process behind many farming and manufacturing techniques for many things that vegetarians eat. Soy production is now one of the 2 main reasons for deforestation in South America and quinoa's "trendiness" in the western world is causing an ever increasing problem for Central American society where the poorer inhabitants of countries in this area are no longer able to feed themselves as well due to the increasing demand and hence increasing price of quinoa which they've always relied on as a staple.
    Just some food for thought.

  39. Emily says:

    So ask your insurance company – do they give better premiums for people who are vegetarian? Often they do – why? Because they know that there is less chance you’ll get heart disease or cancer (two of the biggest causes of premature death?) if you’re vegetarian. They know that as a vegetarian, you’re more likely to live longer, and they’re less likely to pay out. Yup, it comes down to simple economics.

    I'm vegetarian myself, and I have no doubt this is true, but it's a poor argument as it doesn't imply that vegetarianism can make you healthier. It only demonstrates a correlation between vegetarianism and living longer, and there is no reason to assume the relationship is causal. For example, perhaps wealthier people are for some reason more likely to be vegetarian. (Quite plausible: for instance, they might have more leisure time available to consider their diet, or to shop for rarer and more interesting ingredients. I believe this is actually the case, although obviously many poor people eat very little meat.) Wealthier people also have better access to health care resources, time to exercise, etc, etc. So they are likely to live longer for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their vegetarianism.

    Or, try this one: regardless of whether it's true or not, many people *believe* that vegetarianism is good for your health. So, many health-conscious people become vegetarian. Because they're health-conscious, they also do things like exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and avoid too much stress. Hey presto, they live longer – but it doesn't necessarily mean that the vegetarianism helped with that, only that they had a (possibly mistaken) belief about it.

    These correlations are useful for insurance companies because vegetarianism can act as a proxy for other health-related stuff it's correlated with, even if it doesn't have an effect in itself; they don't actually care whether the relationship is causal or not. But for your argument, you do care, and you can't draw that conclusion from looking at what insurance companies do.

    Incidentally, for my own opinion: I do believe that a decent vegetarian diet is almost certainly healthier than your average Western meat-eating diet. However, I also believe that adding moderate amounts of meat (especially fish) to a decent vegetarian diet would make it healthier. (I don't do so myself for reasons that have nothing to do with health.)

  40. Gatsby says:

    Plants have feelings too you know…

  41. BOHEMIA says:

    Thanks for this. I enjoyed reading your article and the comments that followed. I feel increasingly uncomfortable eating meat but can see the argument rationally from both sides, with my feelings currently leaning to the many virtues of plant based eating. It just makes more sense to me. In a world filled with violence, pain and cruelty, I feel less and less inclined to be a part of it and that includes eating animals. We urgently need more compassion and kindness in this world! I will be the change I wish to see :)

  42. Emma says:

    When I was 2 years old I witnessed the aftermath of the slaughter of my favorite cow Bertha. I became a vegetarian on the spot, and for the most part have lived a healthy life. I have recently felt that if I can convince myself that eating flesh isn't weird, I would like to start eating venison and local well treated meats, because I feel it is much better for the environment to eat food that is available locally. Obviously to conserve fossil fuels, but other reasons as well. Too often when foods like quinoa, chia seeds, etc are discovered by the greater world they become inaccessible (due to the price increase with greater demand) to the local community who have depended on these foods for hundreds of years…
    I have to run, but hopefully folks are able to find a diet that is healthy for themselves and the world.


  43. Jill says:

    This Lazy pasta and and pizza eating vegetarian of 25 years… former raw foodie and Vegan …agrees with you!
    I just got back off eggs…slowly easy my way back to Vegan.
    Thanks Ben!

  44. Kelly says:

    This is one of the best articles I have read on this topic, thanks for sharing.

  45. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Waxbear,

    First off, as far as I know the Sun is the source of all energy on this planet. Tell me another please?

    Secondly, I didn’t say anything about eating photons! Please don’t put such ridiculous words in my mouth! We ARE made of light though. For a first hand account of someone who was able to see it clearly, read “And there was light” by Jacques Lusseyran… for a scientific account look at the link in the article… and for other scientific evidence a little research on the internet will do. For thousands of years many spiritual traditions, not least the yogic tradition, has referred to energy bodies; light bodies; auras; halos… etc. The energy that we get from food, does come originally from the sun.

    Thirdly, you raise an excellent point about supporting ethical meat production. However, that topic is beyond the scope of my short article here, and … my intention was simply to raise awareness.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, I appreciate your view.

    Love, Ben

    ps – i’m not trying to “convince the educated”. I prefer to speak to those that are aware that life is one long education, and won’t ever consider their education over yet.

  46. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Christine,

    I accept that there are many people who say that they need meat, and who am I to tell them they are wrong!? On the other hand, I can say from my own personal experience that a) doctors who advise people to eat meat generally don’t know what a proper vegetarian diet is, and b) it’s not easy to get the right balance as a vegetarian, but when I do get that balance, I feel GRRRREAT, and c) there is nothing in meat that you cannot get from elsewhere, if you do a bit of research and are prepared to change your cooking / eating habits. It does take a little work to begin with, but is it worth it, knowing that you are making a huge contribution to the environmental, ethical, and economic footprint you leave behind you? I’d say a big YES.

    Love, Ben

  47. amanaceo says:

    you are funny; those doctors should have their licenses revoked.

  48. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Emily,
    I guess running 100 miles a week and eating badly = poor health and broken bones huh?
    I'm glad you've found a balance, and that you eat meat that is sourced as ethically as possible. And that you aren't breaking your bones anymore!
    I don't think it's that you weren't the 'right' kind of anything, but it does sound as if your diet and lifestyle weren't at all balanced.
    I know of athletes (champions as well) who have succeeded whilst eating not only vegetarian, but also vegan / raw food only.
    Love, Ben

  49. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Thank you for another perspective Losang.
    Of course, we're all different, and some people have special needs to be sure. It's all about balance. There are no absolutes, and there's no judgement on my part. I simply want, as I see you realized already, to inform people. Why? Because there's so much mis-information out there.
    Thanks again for your contribution.
    With love, Ben

  50. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    ‘Wail-on’: I’m tempted to not dignify your (anonymous) comments with a reply… but in the interests of proper information I will.

    1: B12 is available in the following vegetarian sources: Tempeh, cheese, spirulina, yeast spreads (marmite), yeast flakes, milk… some vegetarians choose to eat eggs too, although I don’t. Maybe also miso but I'm not sure.
    Perhaps you are confusing vegetarianism for veganism? :) In which case your comment is laughable, and I will be surprised if you come back here to debate your point further, even with the protection of anonymity.

    2: can you clarify what you mean by: “a very high incedence of heart disease in long term vegetatians” because it makes no sense.

    3: What exactly do you refer to as “actual scientific evidence supporting omnivoorous diets”?

    4: “no comparable data for vegetarians”. Have a look at this link (… ), and you’ll discover that the World Health Organisation (WHO), British Medical Association (BMA), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), and American Dietetic Association (ADA) all back vegetarianism as not only a healthy option, but also one that: “significantly reduces instances of coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, certain types of cancers, gall stones and large intestine disorders.”

    5: I have a friend on the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) who tells me that Global Warming is real, and it is caused by mankind. She should know; she is unbiased; and I will certainly trust her word (and my own intuition and common sense) over yours. “I would look a little deeper into the global warming theory as well” Yes, you should look a little deeper into it, and into all the other issues you raise as well.

    6: You accuse me of ‘flawed information’ and trying to justify my own emotional beliefs. Actually, I don’t have emotional beliefs about this subject. I am almost entirely unemotional about it! I simply present the facts as I know them to be, as a result of over 15 years of research and experimentation into the field of holistic health and diet. If that isn’t scientific, I don’t know what is.

    7: you say the environmental argument is suspect because… “healthy cows don't eat grain.”
    Yes, and? Cows don’t eat grain. So what is your point, and in what way does that negate all of my points about the meat industry's detrimental effect on our environment?
    And you start your comment by saying that I’m on the “mis-information super highway”!!

    8: Owned.

    with love, Ben

  51. wail-on says:

    Okay, the environmental question: The sixteen pounds of grain to one pound of meat figure has been around since at least the seventies. I already said that the feedlot phenomena is a problem I agree with you on. Healthy cows eat grass, so get rid of the feed lots and the 16:1 ratio is irrelevant. Do we need the way we farm to change, yes. Can meat be a part of a sustainable locally sourced diet, yes. At high altiude it has to be. I completely agree with you on the point about the way animals are raised.
    In the beginning of your post you talk of brainwashed doctors, then you cite the same doictors to back your claims. If you look into the studies, all of them were comparing a vegetarian diet to the standard American diet which is based on the food pyramid, tends to include feedlot meat, and also includes a high concentration of grains. It has been clearly shone that traditional diets that include meat (usually hunted or raised without chemicals)but exclude agricultural grains are very healthy in the long term.

  52. wail-on says:

    The china study is deeply flawed, and while the site you link to obviously wants to promote a particular point of view you can find a critique of the methodology at rawfoodsos(dot)com. One of the problems is that the 6500(sounds like a lot) people studied were then grouped by county which took the number of data points down to 65. There were hundreds of variables in the study, and none of the diets were strictly vegetarian, or vegan, nor did any of them exclude grains. Holding that up as definitive proof of the health of a vegetarian diet is not accurate.(for the record I am all for people being vegetarian if it works for them, I just take issue with your statement that there is no justification for eating meat, it just isn't true). The studies showing that traditional hunter gather diets show strong teeth, bones and little to no instances of Cancer, Diabetes or heart disease are fairly sound. The correlations in the china study isolate variables 1to1 more meat, more breast cancer, but they don't take ito account the other factors involved. it is an unreliable study. (again there is no doubt that a vegetarian diet is healthier than the SAD, but that is as far as one can be certain.)

  53. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    That's exactly my point Kara. Thank you… by the way, I don't really believe that doctors are brainwashed. I was attempting to use humor to enliven what could othewise be a fairly dry and boring subject to write about.
    With love, Ben

  54. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Yes Chuck. VERY seriously. I am a VERY serious guy.
    I don't take criticism lightly, because I'm very, very serious. I don't smile much, and I quote myself ALL THE TIME!!
    Every time I open my mouth, or type on the keyboard, it's like: "Oh my gosh, I'm quoting MYSELF"

    No, seriously (really, honest, I'll try) what did you mean by "the author quotes himself".

    And what is a logical fallacy!? (Apart from a great example of an oxymoron). I presume you mean either that there are logical inconsistencies in my writing, or that something I write is false… if so, fine, but please give an example so I can refute your heinous accusations.

    Erm, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: never lose your sense of humor 😉

    With love, Ben

  55. Ramesh Bjonnes Ramesh says:

    Chuck, it's not fair to Ben, the author, to slam his article without an iota of "evidence" to back up your claim that it is "poorly researched."

  56. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    To quote Waylon Lewis, "Ben, you're awesome."

  57. Kara N says:

    Yeah, I know. :)

  58. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Great comment (not)whollyafool, thanks for your helpful contribution to the debate.

  59. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Thanks Candice, it's true – there are many processed foods out there (I could have mentioned them in the article) which are really little more than poison. I believe there are a lot of people that actually have no idea of how bad they are for their physical health, emotional balance, and state of mind.
    Thanks for pointing it out.
    Love, Ben

  60. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Shelli,
    I've only just noticed these comments of yours here, so please excuse the very long delay in replying to you.
    I'm going to be very honest as usual, and I'm guessing you won't like what i have to say (as usual!) but hey, we'll see :)
    As I said in the article, you are what you eat: not just your physical self, but your thoughts too. I've noticed, from the many comments that you've left after my articles and on the EJ facebook page, that you are pretty negative. I'd go so far as to say that you come across sometimes as rather angry and 'tetchy'. I am not trying to upset you, but I believe that there is no point in having a forum of this kind if we're not going to be honest with each other, so I'm telling you what I feel; I am an intuitive empath, as well as a healer, and perhaps there is some truth to what I say. Or perhaps I'm wrong! But you might want to give it a little thought.
    If i'm right, and you tend to get angry, or depressed, or over-emotional, or lazy easily, you might want to look at your diet. Because we ARE what we eat. And if you eat lazily, it will be reflected in how you feel. Not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally, etc.
    That's why I stated at the start of my article that lazy vegetarians don't usually stick to being vegetarian – it's because it's easier to get a balanced diet from eating meat lazily than from eating veggie. So to feel better (physically, emot. ment. etc) they usually switch back to eating meat. Of course, it's a generalisation. Perhaps you're the exception.
    With love, Ben

  61. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Great comment. Respect.

  62. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    See answer to above comment…

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