There are a lot of reasons why one MIGHT decide to eat less or no meat…or as I affectionately like to call it, “dead carcass.” While one person may care deeply about animals, another one may care more deeply about their own intestines, so I am going to try to make arguments that appeal to as many people as possible when trying to assure you that by not eating meat (or at a minimum, reducing the meat you eat and eating better meat), you will be a happier human. I am not a nutritionist, but for many years have been a fitness and nutrition junkie, so I have read a lot of studies and articles. I have been meat-free for over five years and am healthier for it. There is a lot written on all of these points. I am giving the highlights.
Here are my top 7 reasons why being a vegetarian will help you in your quest to try to be a happy human…
1. The happy human body can get protein from sources other than meat (and needs less than you think)
The human body needs protein. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are often called the “building blocks” of our body (thank you, high school biology). Currently the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for an adult is 0.8 grams of protein (per day) for every kg of body weight. I looked at a whole bunch of sites including those for fitness buffs (which I am), and found that adults who exercise may need up to 1.8 grams per kg (although there is debate on this, frankly) and extreme body builders (not most people) need up to 2.0 grams per kg. So, that means if you weigh 150lbs or 68kg and you multiply that by 0.8, you get 54 grams of protein needed. (Our runner would need up to 122g of protein and our body builder about 150g.)
Ok, so calculate what you need based on your weight. I’ll wait. Got it?
I went back to one of the body building pages and found a list of high protein foods. 3 oz of lean steak, pork, ground beef, chicken or turkey breast and most fish yields about 23g of protein…most US restaurants serve 6-8 oz., so you have met your needs in that one dinner. If you break that up, you could easily get what you needed in a small portion twice a day. That is assuming you ate no cottage cheese, which has 14g in 1/2 cup or Greek yogurt which packs 23g in half a cup. Eggs have 6g each. Milk and soy milk have 8g per cup each.
My point is, do you see how quickly that protein adds up? It is not “dangerous” per se to eat more, but it is easy to get what you need.
Alright, what about non-animal sources? Lentils 1/2 cup= 26g, Peanut butter 2 T= 8g, tofu 3 oz= 12g, quinoa 1c= 8g, peas 1C= 8g, nuts 1oz= 6 g, 1c cooked dried beans=13g, chick peas 1/2c=7 g, 1c broccoli=8g. This is not a page to give you menu ideas, but do the math. You can EASILY get the protein you need when including dairy and eggs, and you can still get it as a vegan. Check out these guys if you don’t believe me!
2. Once you are getting your protein needs met from non-meat sources, your body will actually be a happier human body.
When you first stop eating meat, you will actually experience something of a detox effect, therefore, a lot of people blame their feeling badly on the fact that they stopped eating meat. It is actually not the case. The body is ridding itself of toxins and once you have cleared your system out, you will feel better for it.
We didn’t always eat meat, you know. Even stone age human couldn’t eat raw meat because well, first of all we have no claws or fangs, and while neanderthal human was tough, he and she were not immune to bacteria and whatnot that carnivores can tolerate. No, we started eating meat after we invented tools/weapons to kill it and fire to cook it (which frankly minimizes the argument about brain development, but I am not an anthropologist). Have you ever eaten a big steak and felt heavy and bloated? Have you ever been constipated? Meat and dairy will do that. We do digest it, but we would digest any organic matter with enough time to do so. Meat takes a really long time to process through our body and while our body is working on it, we may actually feel less energized…not more.
Guess what fiber does? It moves everything through your system. It pushes out all that protein and all stuff sitting in your intestines and really cleans you out. This is healthy for your system, as you can imagine. Happy digestive tract! Guess what else lots of fiber does? It can make you have a nice flat tummy once all that stuff is out of it! All the dried beans that are so high in protein are also high in fiber. Leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, have some protein and also provide a host of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium vitamins A,C and K and potassium. Fruits are often very high in fiber, they offer natural sugar and also have a range of nutrients. Whole grains have protein, fiber and fill you up. And some fat sources such as flax and nuts, have omegas, which are said to be good for your brain and memory, as well as protein and fiber. All these foods multi-task and have so many great benefits in addition to protein. A lot of these foods have been touted as anti-aging, which is a pretty happy thought.
Try not eating meat for a day a week, then maybe two days a week. Then eat it only once a day, three times a week. Like anything, you need to ween yourself off. Once you do, and once you fill up on other sources of protein and fiber, you will feel better. You can lose, gain or maintain your weight by watching your total intake and your exercise. Happy human!
3. Animals have to live horrible lives and die for you to eat meat…which you don’t need (See points one and two).
Not everyone cares about this fact, so if you hate animals and love blood, skip it. I fail to understand how people can separate cats, dogs, bunnies and horses from chickens, cows and pigs. Is it just a cuteness factor? Baby cows are freaking adorable and they are also known as ‘veal’. Lambs are like the icon of cuteness and they are also known as, well, ‘lamb.’ So cuteness or lack there of is not the issue.
My post about Cecil explores this further.
Is it the idea that we are superior to them? We were lucky enough to be born top of the food chain? We are so clever that we have trapped them, bred them, kept them prisoner and then murdered them, usually painfully? I dare anyone to go to a slaughterhouse and not be affected. I sometimes give hunters and small farmers a pass. MOST (not all) hunters and family farmers I know really respect the animal they hunt or raise. In hunting, it is man against beast and it is anyone’s game (but the guy with the gun usually triumphs over the deadly deer) and animals on small farms are usually well-treated. At the end of the day, however, the animal is dead. Dead does not equal happy. An industrial farm is a whole other bucket of blood, though. I am not going to post disgusting pictures, but the film Earthlings says it well, albeit gruesomely.
It is not kind, it is not pretty, it is not good and not one of those animals is happy. Why do we pity the dog in the pound and not the pig in the pen? You can see the pain and sadness in both their eyes. I still ate fish for the first couple of years after I quit eating other meats. Then one day, I was reading a transcription of a conversation between a Buddhist monk and a Christian priest and the monk said, “You say, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but you don’t specify people. Why do feel that it is okay to kill animals, but not people?” The priest responded basically that we are superior to animals. At that point, I realized that I am not god. I don’t get to choose cow over salmon. They are all living things and all things are happier alive. I am happy knowing that they are not dead and therefore they are not unhappy on account of my wishing a moment of happiness eating a hamburger
4. When animals die, they are scared, stressed and unhappy. This transfers to the eater.
Okay, I am going to get a little hippie and yogi on you. As described briefly in number three, animals raised for slaughter do not have good lives, and their deaths are rarely painless. They also grieve their other animals. When I lived in a village in Botswana, you could hear when goats were being slaughtered because the lamented bleating of the other goats echoed all around. I had two years to listen to animal noises, and goats are amazingly like people and amazingly clever too…anyway, they grieved. When the animal is about to be slaughtered, it is aware of its fate just like you would be when facing a firing squad. Muscles tense, bowels are released, fear and anticipation pain fill the body. And then the animal dies…in pain. 6th grade science taught us energy can neither be created or destroyed, and people who believe in a universal energy argue that those negative energies are transferred to the person eating the meat. You are consuming death, no matter how you look at it. This will not make you happy.
5. Eating meat is damaging to the earth.
I am not an environmental expert, so I am going to mostly lead to you links to read on this stuff. The top three crops in the US are corn, soy and hay. Guess who eats most of that? Livestock. 80% of the corn raised is for animal consumption. raising animals creates unfathomable water, air and ground pollution. And once the animal is raised, meat-packing is a tremendous waste of water and polluter. And the fact is, we are consuming so much more than we ever have and so much more than we need. Worldwide meat production has tripled over the last four decades and increased 20 percent in just the last 10 years. Meanwhile, industrial countries are consuming growing amounts of meat, nearly double the quantity in developing countries. As I said above, we don’t need nearly as much as we get in the developed world, but people WANT it. People think a Happy Meal or a giant Porterhouse or an entire breast of Thanksgiving turkey will make them happy, so we demand more and more and the environment, in which we all have to live, suffers. Our health suffers. That does not equate to happiness. Just ask the UN if you don’t believe me.
6. The over-consumption of meat in the developed world is starving those in the underdeveloped world.
Perhaps you are one of those who drives an SUV in the suburbs and thinks Al Gore invented global warming. Fine, screw the earth. Do you feel the same way about starving and malnourished children? Remember points one and two? This was assuming you are not a child starving somewhere in a drought-ridden, war-torn country. This assumes access to alternative sources or protein and food at all. While in the West, most people overfeed themselves with unnecessary protein, those in the global south are being deprived of the vital nutrients they need, including protein. This is not like your mother telling you to eat your meatloaf back in 1981 because kids were starving in Ethiopia. This is real. All those crops being raised that are mentioned above…they could be used to feed people. Instead they are being shipped around to world to feed animals and that meat is quite often exported right back out. This says it better than I can.
7. Less meat = healthier heart + less cancer = happier human
I am going to bring this full circle with lucky number seven and come back to the most important being in your life. You. There have been a lot of studies recently that demonstrate that red meat and all processed meats, in particular, increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. There are literally hundreds of articles on the subject. With a lot of cancers, doctors really have no idea, but colon cancer and too much meat with not enough fiber has shown a pretty strong link. Heart disease is also pretty unquestionable in its link to meat.
There is a greater risk of disease in people who eat meat. Wouldn’t you be happier knowing you were doing all you could to reduce your risk? Wouldn’t that make you happy?
So in summary. Eating meat can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer, fills your body with negative energy, deprives starving children of food, damages the environment globally and makes the animals very, very unhappy. Not eating meat, reduces your risk of cancer, lessens your impact on the environment, detoxifies your body and fills you with happy energy. Being an herbivore is kind. Happy Human!
As one final note, I am not in favor of people losing their jobs, and if everyone in the world suddenly stopped eating meat, in theory, a lot of people would be out of work. However, I argue that eating meat that is ethically and sustainably raised and eating less of it (or non of it) would have a positive impact on a global scale in terms of public health, the environment and world nutrition, and this would benefit all earthlings for a long time. Those reliant on the meat industry always have the option of being sustainable and kind.
Always choose kindness and you will be happy…..