Does being vegetarian help animals and is it a sustainable way to live your life?
Hi, sorry this post is so late, I ran into multiple technical difficulties and my post was deleted multiple times, but I’m back at it now! So this round will be both my round 2 and 3. I’ve divided it up into multiple parts so it’s easier to read.
I also interviewed multiple vegetarian high schoolers to ask them about their experience being vegetarian. One thing to note is that any information shared through the interview other than opinions or personal experience is not fact checked, and may not be true. These interviews will be shown in yellow highlighter (Some of these interviews are edited when needed for clarity)
ROUND TWO - How does being vegetarian affect your overall health and is it a good lifestyle choice?
- Different types of vegetarians
- Why people become vegetarian
- Health effects of being vegetarian – myth vs fact
- How it affects your overall lifestyle
ROUND THREE - What are other ways to help farm animals other than becoming vegetarian and are they as effective?
- Other ways to help farm animals
- Are these other ways as effective as being vegetarian?
- How being vegetarian does more than just save animals
- How to become vegetarian (if that’s something you are interested in)
There are many different types of vegetarian diets, and each one affects your life styles differently.
Flexitarian – Occasionally eats meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, but tries to avoid animal products.
Pescatarian – Does not eat meat, poultry, or fowl, but they do eat sea food.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian – Eat eggs and dairy products, but not the animal itself (meat, poultry, fish, and sea food)
Lacto-vegetarian – Eat dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc) but do not eat any sort of animal or products made using eggs.
Ovo-vegetarian – Include egg in their diet but do not eat any animals or dairy products
Vegan – Do not eat any sort of animal products, including ingredients that are made from animal products (such as gelatin)
Raw diet – Eat only raw unprocessed foods that have not been heated above 46 degrees Celsius. People who follow this diet believe that heating food to much makes it lose it’s nutritional value and may be harmful to them. (1)
People chose to become vegetarian for many different reasons. Most people become vegetarian because of health, religion, concern about animal welfare, and concern about the environment. (2)
Q : Why did you decide to become vegetarian?
“I became vegetarian because I don’t really like meat in the first place. I thought if I’m not going to eat it because I’m picky then I should just boycott it to help the animals!!”
“Global warming an the thought of it being irreversible in 12 years”
“Cause I was a kid and I loved animals”
“I didn’t really have a big reason why I stopped eating meat is probably because beef takes up a lot of resources and in overall I didn’t really like the taste”
“I was raised as a vegetarian because of religion, but at about 12 year old I was given the choice to change but I didn’t want to as I was used to being vegetarian and the thought of eating animals didn’t suit me”
There are many myths surrounding the health of people with a vegetarian diet, so I decided to look for answers and clear up those myths.
MYTH 1: Being vegetarian is better for your health than eating meat.
FACT: It depends on the person themselves. Being vegetarian forces you to plan out your diet, and if you don’t do so, you may end up eating snacks and junk food because you just don’t know what else to eat. However, with a structured meal plan, being vegetarian can be extremely healthy. (3)
MYTH 2: Vegetarians do not get enough protein.
FACT: The recommended amount of protein that someone should consume in a day is 42 grams, and vegetarians consume on average 70 grams of protein per day. As long as vegetarians make sure that they are getting protein from the foods they eat, they should have no problem. (4)
MYTH 3: Vegetarians have low iron deficiency.
FACT: Not all vegetarians suffer from an iron deficiency, but the truth is that many do. Iron can be found in vegetables too, not only meat, but the iron in vegetables is harder for your body to absorb. (5)
MYTH 4: Being vegetarian is great for weight loss.
FACT: Eliminating meat but not processed foods will not help you lose weight.
MYTH 5: “Fake meat” is healthier than regular meat.
FACT: Most of the time, meat substitutes are over processed, full of sodium, preservatives, and additives. There are still healthy meat substitutes out there, just make sure to read the label.
MYTH 6: Vegetarians have less energy than people with a regular diet.
FACT: Most people have more energy after becoming vegetarian, especially if they also cut processed foods out of their diet. If you have low energy after becoming vegetarian, it means that there is something wrong with your diet plan and you should switch it up to consume more iron. (6)
Q: Do you feel that being vegetarian positively or negatively affects your health?
“I feel that it negatively affects my health but that’s my fault because I don’t put in the effort to find protein so I end up being quite low on iron and getting light-headed often.”
“Majority was positive but it was hard to get the right amount of nutrients at some points.”
“I think it has positively affected my health in that I wasn’t eating any red meats or fats and I just had lots of tofu and alternatives.”
“It doesn’t negatively affect my health and it’s positive as I am not getting processed meat and chemicals into my body.”
“I haven’t noticed it affecting my health so maybe more neutral but I have low iron deficiency and I was on anti biotics for a period of time so it might’ve been affected by that?”
Being vegetarian affects your lifestyle in many different ways. There are a lot of vegetarian people in the world, but a lot of people still chose to follow a regular diet, which means that it may sometimes be hard to find vegetarian options, especially when traveling.
Q: What is the hardest part about being vegetarian and how does it affect your overall lifestyle?
“The hardest part about being vegetarian is going to restaurants with my friends and only being able to eat salad or something I don’t really like. It doesn’t really affect my lifestyle because when I’m at home I almost forget I am vegetarian!”
“For me the hardest part is when I’m really hungry and I want to eat everything I start craving meat. It was the most difficult when I first started plus my whole family still eats meat.”
“The hardest part would probably be going out with friends to eat and having to get alternatives or having to get a separate meal when you go out to eat at someone’s house.”
“I have genetically low iron so red meat would have helped me with this but as a vegetarian I have to find other ways to get my iron up which is hard. Also going on school trips like to Europe and finding vegetarian food can be tricky but most people are understanding so it’s okay.”
“Since I’m not really in charge of what gets made or ordered for dinner at my house I guess it’s hard to make sure everything is vegetarian? Like sometimes my parents make stir fry but throw in chunks of beef so I have to go make myself a salad instead of eating what they make”
Although being vegetarian is a great way to help farm animals, I figured that there are also other ways to do so. I came across this great website that explains multiple ways to help farm animals, and it had some great ideas that I believe most people could incorporate into their daily lives.
One of these ideas was to avoid “factory farmed” food. In my first round of research, I talked about how animals are treated in factories and how they are raised in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. There are multiple places to get products that aren’t factory farmed, such as farmer’s markets and buying directly from small family farms. If you shop at a grocery store or super market, you could look for free-range or pasture-raised products.
The foods with the highest animal welfare standards include these certifications on the packaging:
GLOBAL ANIMAL PARTNERSHIP
CERTIFIED ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED BY AGW
CERTIFIED GRASSFED BY AGW
With that being said, food with labels saying “pasture raised” or “free range” also meet higher welfare standards.
Another way to help farm animals is not to eat certain animals that we know are being raised in an inhumane way. The website listed multiple animals, and I found it extremely interesting because many animals that I thought would be on the list weren’t and ones that I didn’t think would be on the list were. I put the list of animals below and the reason they shouldn’t be eaten. IT INCLUDES DETAILS ABOUT WHY AND HOW THEY ARE TREATED INHUMANELY, SO IF IT BOTHERS YOU TO READ THAT KIND OF THING, PLEASE SKIP THE LIST.
Milk-fed veal – Milk-fed / white meat is the meat of very young calves. Generally, they are fed a diet lacking iron and fiber so that they produce pale, tender meat. They also are confined to limit the amount of exercise they receive, in order to avoid muscle development.
Frog legs – 1 billion frogs are violently taken out of the wild each year. There are possibly even being “eaten to extinction”.
Foie Gras – This is a French dish made from the liver of ducks or geese named Foie Gras which translates to “fatty liver” in English. The livers are unnaturally enlarged by putting a feeding pipe down the bird’s throat twice a day to make sure they eat a lot.
Crustaceans – According to scientific research, lobsters, crabs, and crayfish are capable of feeling pain, and these animals are almost always cooked alive.
Live sashimi – Live sashimi is various different types of aquatic animals that are dismembered while still alive and sent out to eat while still squirming on the plate. Even octopi, one of the most intelligent invertebrate, is served like this. Another similar dish is the drunken shrimp, where shrimp are stunned in liquor and then served alive.
Shark fin soup – The majority of the sharks cooked in shark fin soup are caught in open water and have their fins cut off before they are tossed back into the sea. Without their fins, they will either drown, bleed to death, or be eaten by other animals. As many as 73 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. (7)
My final way to help farm animals is spread the message! Even if you aren’t going to take any action to help animal welfare, spread the message to make other people aware that this is a problem, and there are easy things you can do to help.
Originally, I had wanted to see if these ways are less or more effective than being vegetarian, but I now realize that being vegetarian accomplishes something different than these other options. These other options help make sure that animals are treated fairly, but being vegetarian takes away your demand for meat. That means that just the fact that you chose a veggie burger over a real one saves a cow from being slaughtered, because the companies realize that the demand for meat is not so high.
Q: In what ways do you feel that being vegetarian betters you and the world around you?
“Seeing as meat production makes more greenhouse gases than all transportation combined, I feel as that although I’m probably making a small impact, at least I’m making an impact!!”
“I think it makes me feel like a good person cause I know I’m helping the earth in some way.”
“I feel that being vegetarian is a good way to lessen the amount of animals being slaughtered and going to waste because that does take up a lot of water, land, and food that isn’t necessarily needed to be used.”
“It betters me as when people say you need to eat meat to be healthy, I realize that they are wrong, and you can get all your protein and things from other food. It betters the world as instead of giving crops and stuff to animals so they can eat before we kill them, those crops will be given to less fortunate people and help end world hunger.”
“I’d like to think it betters the world around me because I’m using less recourses and stuff.”
Q: How did you become vegetarian? What steps did you take?
“I started by becoming flexitarian, so only eating free range meats, and then I cut out everything except fish and became pescatarian, and then I finally became vegetarian and that whole process took about two years.”
“I was pescatarian at first and then a year later I became a full vegetarian”
“The process and steps I that I took to become vegetarian were pretty simple. I just decided that I wouldn’t eat meat and at first it was hard and you craved the meat, but after a while you start to get sick of looking at the meat, so then you were fine after a few months.”
“I was raised that way”
“I told my parents, who stopped cooking meat for me after I wrote them a list of alternatives.”