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

Via Ben Ralston
on Aug 25, 2010
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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.

Also:

  • 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.

****

Sources:

Suite 101

Goveg.com


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About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.

Comments

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

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Sam says:

    I am a vegetarian. While i do agree with many of the reasons you give for my own dietary/life habits, I do not feel that you are being very logical or compassionate here, and as a consequence I am guessing that any meat eater who reads this will feel personally attacked, which will cause their emotional brain to turn on and their thinking brain off. Your goal will not be accomplished by attacking the way that others desire to live.

    One sentence in your editorial that I felt particularly embodied this is as follows:

    "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."

    Just by using the word 'gross' you have turned what might have been a good point into an attack on the physical embodiment of the human form. The physical side is just as important as the spiritual side and by calling it gross, you have disregarded its importance and also have turned the piece from possibly being balanced into a completely emotional piece of opinionated directive on how others should live.

    Also, do not cite Wikipedia as a source. That is a terribly ameteurish mistake to make. Wikipedia has endnotes of references for all facts and data on their articles that are well written. Rather than quoting Wikipedia, which is an often unreliable secondary source, go down to the citation for the sentence you are quoting and cite the primary source used. It will make you a much more credible journalist.

  4. 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.

  5. Sam says:

    Scott,

    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.

  6. Ben_Ralston says:

    Huh. You're in a minority here mate 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.)

  14. Gatsby says:

    Plants have feelings too you know…

  15. ELaurenson says:

    Most of us, here in the west especially, have evolved beyond the point of needing meat. We haven't evolved beyond the need to eat plants. Additionally, there is no plant bardo realm, so I guess it all depends on your ethics.

  16. 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 🙂

  17. Karen says:

    I was also interested in good sources of vitamin B12. I have been eating much less meat but have needed B12 supplementation.

  18. 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.

    Love.

  19. 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!
    xox

  20. B-Rad says:

    Actually our teeth have no problem ripping raw meat. Ever ate sushi?

  21. Kelly says:

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

  22. Ellen says:

    Agree. There is no "humane" way to kill anything. But there are respectful and honoring ways. Also, all that land that is taken up by ranching… It's actually one great ways that America's private land has been preserved in my mind. Also, it's important to respect other peoples cultures. Get to know some small time ranchers, hunters and subsistence farmers. Preserve and conserve! Respect and be aware. Of your feelings when you watch an animal die. When you process and consume the animal. I don't think it's the consumption f meat but the divorce from the process that is the problem. Further divorce is not actually the solution. Facing the realty is. Face it. Then eat meat if you are still inclined.

  23. Elie says:

    1) If humans were omnivores they would be eating meat raw and not cooking it with spices for it to taste nice.

    2) There is no such thing as Humane Slaughter. Slaughter is slaughter because it’s slaughter. Just because an animal is raised as it should be doesn’t mean that killing it is anymore moral than not. Think about it.

    3) From a spiritual stand point murder is wrong in all forms. Animals are beings and it is no different. Until an animal willingly walks up to you and gives you a knofe to kill it with, it’s murder.

    4) Meat sits in your body for 2-3 days until it can be processed for the little bit of protein it contains. So if you’re eating meat 3 times a day then you’re more likely to have health problems than a person who eats plants that pass through their body within a few hours. Look it up, it’s science.

    5) Those who dispute with vegetarians are just projecting the guilt they feel for being unable to rationalize the consumption of dead animals. The lack of compassion and ethics are what make you speak so horribly about others and about animals. You are what you eat.

  24. Michelle says:

    To the author of this piece:

    WOW way to go on the judgementalism at the start. You are talking to "real vegetarians" Really? And here I was thinking anyone who eats a vegetarian diet is a "real" vegetarian.

    Don't confuse people's behaviours with their diet. That's lazy journalism. There are some annoying and abnoxious vegetarians as their are vegans, pescitarians, omnivores and meat eaters. It has nothing to do with diet. That has everything to do with beliefs, attitudes and behaviour.

    Instead of trying to divide your audience, why not find a way to be more inclusive and positive? It's not that hard if you are interested in really connecting with people.

  25. Lea says:

    Yes, this…

    “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.”

  26. Lisa says:

    On a completely different level, why do you show pictures on facebook that have nothing to do with the article? It’s misleading advertising for your article and annoying. Please stop doing that. Side by side images of two beautiful women have nothing to do with the subject matter.

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