Nadia Figueroa Professor Eunkyung ChoWRIT 130113 December 2017 What’s the Beef with Beef? Vegetarianism has existed since 3,200 BCE, so why has it only recently begun to gain such traction and popularity with the western world? Until recently, the vegetarian practice had remained ostracized in our society. Linking an animal free diet with radical animal-rights advocates, a particular religion or extreme “alt-left” individuals. Most of the research conducted was done to find its faults. They concentrated on the nutritional deficiencies that it supposedly brought. In recent years, advancing new studies have fueled the pendulum to swing away from those popular beliefs. Those findings have led me to belief that it is crucial for a vegetarian diet to be accepted and practiced because of the global impacts that the meat industry has on the environment, the health benefits that it brings, and the ethicality of the consumption of meat. Although its growth, a lot of avid meat-eaters still questions the validity of the vegetarian philosophy. That is why, in this essay, I hope to enlighten such individuals on the subject. Vegetarianism is the theory and practice of the voluntary non-consumption of animal flesh (including sea animals) and animal derivatives such as eggs and dairy products. There are five main degrees to which vegetarianism can be practiced: Vegan, Ovo-Lacto, Ovo, Lacto and Partial. Veganism being the most rigorous. Vegan individuals take it to the next level by not only changing their diet, but also their way of life. Something being vegan refers to anything that is free of animal product: no meat, milk, eggs, wool, leather, honey etc. The most popular degree of vegetarianism is Lacto-Ovo. Lacto-Ovo vegetarians consume dairy products and eggs, but renounce animal flesh. From Lacto-Ovo, two other types of vegetarianism evolved, Lacto and Ovo. Ovo vegetarians consume eggs but refrain from eating meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. On the other hand, Lacto vegetarians do not eat animal flesh or eggs, but do consume dairy products. Although these are the most “rule-based”, Partial is the perfect in-between diet for those that want to be vegetarians but haven’t made the full transition (“Becoming a Vegetarian”).Partial vegetarianism is when the individual avoids meat, but may eat fish (pesco-vegetariana/pescatarian) or poultry (pollo-vegetarian) Although these concepts may seem new, they are far from being a new phenomenon. Vegetarianism has a long and diverse history and has been preserve in most cultures that can be seen today. The earliest record of vegetarianism being practice can be traced back to ancient cultures of Asia, Egypt, and Greek civilizations of southern Italy and Greece. The vegetarian ideology was practiced among various religious groups of Egypt around 3,200 BCE. They shared the commonality of abstaining from the consumption of meat and other animal derivatives (such as eggs and dairy) and using animal skin for clothing purposes. These actions were done based on their karmic beliefs of reincarnation. Similarly in Asia, vegetarianism was linked to many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Brahanainums, and Jainism. In these religions, the abstention from meat was a key central concept. For example, in Hinduism, ancient sacred texts such as the ‘Upanishads’ and ‘Rig Veda’ mention and encourage a vegetarian lifestyle. Like in Hinduism, many other cultures and religions in Asia highlighted the importance of respecting all life forms and implementing a non-violent lifestyle. One of the most notable individuals to bring vegetarian into light was Pythagoras. Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher and religious leader from southern Italy. Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, saw vegetarianism as an important concept in order to achieve peaceful human coexistence. He believed that the slaughtering of animals brutalized the human soul and diminished away at our humanity, but animal cruelty was not the only thing that made him and his followers turn to vegetarianism. He saw the health advantages that a meat free diet brought. (“World History of Vegetarianism”) In recent years, the case against incorporating meat into our diets has been reinforced by the plethora of studies that back up the health benefits of a plant based diet. The surmise that a vegetarian diet is nutritionally deficient is a popular misconception since there is plenty of scientific evidence that goes against such claim. In fact, the USDA and many nutrition experts have eulogized vegetarianism for its many health advantages (Hurley 39). A lot of research has shown that for individuals the health benefits of a plant based diet can surpass that of those who consume meat. One of the most obvious reasons being the conditions in which the meat industry handles its product. The guidelines and regulations that are implemented on the meat industry are not enforced to the degree that the general public would like to think they are. This lack of regulation is described by Howard Lyman. Lyman is a raised-to-graze, fourth-generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher that backs up his vegan lifestyle in his book ,”Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat”. In the book, he describes the horrible conditions that cattle are raised in. Lyman writes that cattle are fed “ground-up dead horses, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys, as well as blood and fecal material of their own species” (Lyman 29). To the general public this may sound absurd, but to Lyman this is something that not only occurred at his ranch; it is very common for ranchers to feed their cattle things that to most people would seem as inappropriate or even waste. Lyman states how “nearly all meat in America is contaminated with such man-made carcinogens as dioxins, a family of chemical related to Agent Orange and DDT” (Lyman 35). Cattle is fed things that contain higher concentrations of pesticides than that of the soil used to grow crops. The claims that he makes can be backed up by the critically acclaimed book “The Jungle” by Sinclair Lewis. Although it has been 100 years since it was published, practically nothing has changed. Lewis writes how “slaughterhouse are efficient factories for spreading pathogens from one chicken to the next… covered with feces, bile and feed…Individual chicken inspectors examine about 12,000 chickens a day, each for about two second” (Lewis). One may come to ask oneself, how is it even legal that farmers and ranchers can carry out such behaviors with no repercussion, but the reality is that the meat lobby is very influential in government. “There are clear benefits of replacing red meat with almost any other protein, but the meat lobby is very powerful”, says Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University. The meat industry is a powerful political force that has the ability to wield its power through organizations such as the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The meat industry targets key lawmakers to ensure that their business’ interests are upheld. In the past, the meat industry has succeeded in weakening and preventing many new meat-safety regulations. Most of the time, their interest revolve around increasing efficiency and maximizing profit thus negatively impacting public health. However, a vegetarian lifestyle is not solely validated upon the corruption that the meat industry has on congress, but instead due to its more positive essence. Studies have lauded the meatless diet to help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, several forms of cancer (particularly colorectal cancer) and obesity (Estruch et al). This is particularly relevant in today’s society since obesity and heart disease are increasing at an alarming rate and affecting so many American individuals. According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), more than one third (36.5% exactly) of U.S. adults are obese. In addition, not consuming meat may be a contributing factor to why industrialized nations in the Mediterranean and Asia have longer lifespans. According to the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition at Loma Linda University, a meatless diet can “slow, and perhaps even reverse, age-related declines in brain function and in cognitive and motor performance” (Corliss). On the other had, diets high in animal protein and plant food deficient actually enlarged the risk of cancer and heart disease (“Meat-Free”). According to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., the American emphasises animal products into their diet and this directly causes about 75% of the disease in the country (Hurley 39). This can be attributed to the fact that a lot of meat products and its derivatives contain high amounts of saturated fat, nitrate, and toxins that are found in the fat and muscles of the animals. Animals are keen to accumulating toxins because a majority of their biological makeup is fat. So when these animals eat toxic diets, these toxins get carried around with them throughout their lifespan and end up inside the meat that people consume. One of the more pressing reasons behind the need to adopt vegetarianism into our culture is the detrimental impact that the meat industry has on the environment. Many Americans are oblivious to the fact that this business engenders irreparable scars to nature, and squanders sources that could be used to provide food to the hungry. Around 20 billion livestock occupy the earth, that is three times the number of human beings (Motavalli). The amount of room that is required to raise these animals is massive, and that is that is that many of these animals are raised under “small conditions”. Although animal ranching is not mitigated to a specific region on earth, in South America, deforestation can now be attributed to cattle ranching. About “80 percent of deforestation areas in Brazil are now used for pasture” (Woolley). An area the size of Portugal was used for grazing purposes. The impact that cattle ranching is having on the rainforest and the environment is enormous. Deforestation is accountable for making Brazil the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter due to the significant contribution that emissions in from of bovine methane pollute the air (Woolley). Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions (Rosenzweig and Hillel), which are responsible for global warming and its consequences. Global warming is the source of climate-related environmental “bads”, such as flooding and drought, melting of Arctic ice, and the loss of plant and animal biodiversity. In addition, the large numbers of animal bred for food creates 87,000 pounds of fecal matter per second(“In the Belly of the Beast”), all of which is eventually routed to rivers, streams and oceans. This became so concerning that the “Environmental Protection Agency reports fecal matter pollutes American waterways more that other industrial sources combines (qtd. In Slobdkin). Perhaps the most important (and sometimes controversial) argument for the collective abandonment of meat is the very essence of giving life for the sole purpose of taking it away. The meat industry is the perfect nightmarish glimpse into what American capitalism looks like. Ethical implications are disregarded and replaced with the goal of making profit, thus giving way for the absence of moral and regulatory constraint. This is especially true when looking into cases of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) which are sometimes called factory farms. Author Michael Pollan writes in his book “An Animal’s Place”: To visit a modern CAFO…is to enter a world that, for all its technological sophistication, is still designed according to Cartesian principles: animals are machines incapable of feeling pain. Since no thinking person can possibly believe this any more, industrial animal agriculture depends on a suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert your eyes on the part of everyone else.When male chickens are born under CAFO conditions, they could either be thrown into trash bags and left to die since they are of no value to farmers, or could be ground up to be later turn into chicken nuggets. Female chicken that are “lucky” enough to survive are packed into crates. Due to the inhabitable conditions and stress that overwhelms these animals, they begin to rub against the cage causing lacerations to their bodies. When a laying hen is about to die, she will be deprived of food and water for the days until her death (Pollan). This is done to reduce their production costs. Some critics question the validity of reports of animal cruelty. They believe that the government would have regulations in order to protect animals from mistreatment, but that is not true. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) implemented by the USDA, requires inspections to be done in order to insure animals’ welfare, have seemingly little to no effect on actual farm practices. Animals are really skinned alive and often “regain conscious during slaughtering” (Motavalli). The morality of meat consumption also comes into question given that there is a lot of research to confirm that animals are capable of processing what is happening to them. They are capable of expressing and experiencing very similar emotions to our own. Scientists have often seen that elephants will try revive a dead or dying family member, and even stand beside their dead body for days showing signs of grief. The stress that animals feel is do to the pre-slaughter rituals that implemented like: changes of environment, handling, social disturbance, deprivation of food, climate conditions, fatigue and sometime pain (Terlouw et al). According to “Pre-slaughter conditions, animal stress and welfare”: For fowl, bird catching and crating, duration and climatic conditions of transport and of lairage and shackling are the main known pre-slaughter stress factors. For pigs, stress is caused by fighting during mixing of pens, loading and unloading conditions, and introduction in the restrainer. Handling and novelty of the situation contribute to the stress reactions. For veal calves and adult cattle, disruption of the social group, handling, loading and sometimes unloading conditions, fatigue, novelty of the situation and for calves mixing with unfamiliar animals are known stress factors…Calves and sheep may be electrically stunned or with a captive bolt pistol.And this is just taking into account the conditions in that animals are placed in pre and during slaughter, but one has to take into consideration that these animals have been living in fowl conditions for their whole entire lives. In spite of the abundance of evidence that a vegetarian lifestyle would be more beneficial to humanity, critics still persistently voice their skepticism over the idea of rejecting meat. Most argue, that meat is necessary in order to maintain a healthy diet, but in reality there are many substitutes of animal protein that can be found in plants such as tofu, soybean, legumes, grains and greens. Although one cannot expect such a rapid change from society, it is a big step forward to see vegetarianism gradually moving from the fringe of liberalist movements into mainstream society. To conclude, the benefits of a meatless lifestyle are boundless, and in adopting an existence based on life rather than death, our society would be catapulted into the future with more compassionate and responsible individuals.