Opinion: The case against vegetarianism

Extremes usually aren’t good and many say that life is about balance. That’s why I disagree with vegetarianism. Being a vegetarian has many admirable qualities, but it is an unnecessary restriction on life. Although people should limit their meat intake, no one should give it up completely.

We all know a vegetarian. In fact, about 3.2 percent of all Americans or 7.3 million people, are vegetarian. Some people do not want to condone the inhumane treatment of animals; others believe that being a vegetarian promotes a healthy body, considering some of the adverse side affects of meat, such as heart disease.

No matter what the reason though, there’s no need to quit meat cold turkey and there are other health and environmental problems that non-meat products may cause.

Courtesy of Carrie Norris/Flickr

Courtesy of Carrie Norris/Flickr

Many vegetarians fulfill their protein needs with soy products. Unfortunately soybean farming has many destructive environmental impacts. Now, as the demand for soy is increasing, many rainforests and diverse ecosystems across the world are being turned into soybean plantations. Biological diversity is necessary for an ecosystem to survive and these plantations are detrimentally creating monocultures.

Vegetarians are not the major consumer of soy products, so they cannot be exclusively blamed. However, there are as many ethical reasons to oppose soy products as there are to oppose animal products, yet vegetarians still eat them.

I’ll admit that a vegetarian diet is much more eco-friendly than eating meat. A lot of energy is put into the raising of the crops used to feed animals, then to slaughter them, and finally to transport and preserve the meat. However, I believe that it is more realistic to ask people to eat less meat and thus do less damage to the environment, than to have the entire population switch to a vegetarian diet.

The vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t just limit your diet; it also limits your life. Menu, grocery and recipe options are restricted, removing all meat related products. I don’t believe that vegetarians are missing out on solely the meat though, I believe that they are missing out from truly exploring another culture. Food is a common definitive characteristic of many cultures and if a person refuses to eat meat then they will miss out on experiencing another society.

Courtesy of shu tu/Flickr

Courtesy of shu tu/Flickr

I was at a German restaurant over break and being a vegetarian there would have been very limiting. I’m of German descent, so when I eat German food I am not only experiencing a culture different from my own American one, but I am also exploring my heritage. Personally, I try to limit my meat intake, especially beef and other red meats.

However, if I never ate meat, I would miss out on many of the foreign and exotic dishes that I’ve had the privilege of tasting. Even at the German restaurant I was able to try a wurst made with alligator meat. My point is that were I a vegetarian, I would have had to order something much more run of the mill. (I also wouldn’t have a cool dish to Instagram.)

I completely agree with vegetarian’s protest against the cruel and despicable conditions that many farm animals are subjected to. The majority of the chickens sold today have been bred and drugged in crowded warehouse type places, only to be slaughtered in industrial-type factory line.

However, today there is an increasing amount of free-range chicken and hormone free cows that are treated humanely. We’ve been eating animals for thousands of years, we aren’t going to stop anytime soon, but we should do what we can and avoid non free-range products.

Courtesy of theimpulsivebuy/Flickr

Courtesy of theimpulsivebuy/Flickr

While being a vegetarian does have many health benefits, a vegetarian does not necessarily eat healthy foods. I know plenty of vegetarians who do not solely eat fruit vegetables and high protein nuts and grains. Instead, they turn to processed bags of chips, french fries and ice cream due to the lack of options that most vegetarians encounter daily.

Often, these foods lack any form of protein, which helps people feel full. Instead they are filled with carbohydrates; eating too many carbs can make a person feel slow and tired, and leads to weight gain. So, while being a vegetarian may encourage someone to eat a healthier, greener diet it may also push them towards a diet of candy and junk food.

Vegetarians also lack the nutritional benefits that omnivorous humans receive from meat. Meat provides a major source of iron and B12 for our bodies. Unfortunately, many become anemic due to an iron deficiency and lack natural energy due to an absence of B12.

A person may purchase nutritional supplements; however, B12 supplements must be derived from some form of animal products, so a person may not completely avoid the killing of an animal. If these people ate meat occasionally, they would receive the nutritional benefits and not have to rely on supplements.

I really do commend vegetarians for their commitment to a healthier body and a more humane world. In the end, though, to never eat meat seems unnecessary and counterproductive. Meat should be enjoyed in moderation. Just make sure that you are conscious about the type of farm your poultry and beef come from and consider the ecological footprint of the foods you eat.

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