I will never eat meat again.
It has been over five years since I last sat down at a restaurant and ordered a hamburger, five years since I helped my dad grill hotdogs on our back porch, five years since I crafted my favorite sandwich combination of turkey with pickled relish and mustard. Five years later, I do not miss any of these things. I never envy my relatives who dig into the festive ham at Thanksgiving, nor do I stay up late at night simply dreaming of the crunch of buttery crab legs.
I will emphasize now that I do not appreciate people who shove their ideologies down other's throats. I have never been one to preach my values to others and judge those who do not think exactly the same way as me. I understand and appreciate that meat can be vital to surviving for certain individuals, while simultaneously acknowledging that for many of us (especially in the developed world), meat is by no means necessary to live. I am still very much alive and highly active, and yet meat has been absent from my diet for years.
Here are some of the reasons I personally have made the commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle (and why I encourage others to at least give it a chance):
Including both land and sea creatures, around 3 billion animals are killed every day. 3 billion every single day. This number is devastating for a variety of reasons. First, the treatment of these slaughtered animals is abhorrent. Simply watch one of the countless documentaries that investigate factory farming and you will be exposed to gruesome images of caged pigs being force-fed steroids until reaching 300 pounds and being slaughtered, of young calves being separated from their mothers at birth to be killed and sold as veal, of goats being forcibly impregnated in order to produce milk. The images and stories are out there, and they are grotesque.
Animals are sentient beings who feel pain. There is documentation of commercial farmers slaughtering sheep by shackling their hind leg and raising it off the ground, only to cut the sheep from their stomach to throat and letting the animal bleed to death (often the animal is conscious). This is horrifying, I know, but it is also important. One can read something like this, be disgusted, but move on with their day and keep consuming meat. Or, one can research factory farming and discover the deplorable inhumanity in current practices and decide to take action by refraining from contributing to such a torturous process.
Another reason the 3 billion number is devastating is because of the negative impact factory farming and the mass production of meat has on the environment. The meat industry has a detrimental impact on energy consumption, fertilizer and pesticide application, water usage, waste production, and soil quality. For example, people who eat beef (just beef alone) use 160 times more land, water, and fuel resources for their diet in comparison to a plant-based one. That's a huge gap in resources that could be spent elsewhere. Additionally, as the world population continues to expand, it is increasingly harder to feed the 805 million people suffering from chronic hunger. Why, then, is 70 percent of grain in America alone fed to farm animals instead of people? Cattle by themselves consume the same amount of food that could feed 8.7 billion people. Think of what an impact a plant-based diet could have on both the environment and world hunger.
Finally, 3 billion animals killed per day is not only a detriment to animals, but it is harmful to the health of humans as well. In contrast, a vegetarian diet offers multiple health benefits including a decreased chance of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. I have never felt more healthy or energized since switching to a plant-based diet.
3 billion animals killed per day is a staggering number. The suffering animals endure in factory farms is atrocious. The impact of the meat industry is devastating to the environment and resources are allocated improperly. Meat has a negative impact on health. The reasons to become a vegetarian are endless. But mostly, the number of animals killed per day is heart-breaking.
But it is one that can change.