Vegetarianism do not eat dairy products, eggs or any

Vegetarianism is a
diet lifestyle that evolves around vegetables and consumption of any non-meat
products but there are a few types of vegetarians. They can be generally classified into lacto-ovo vegetarians where they eat both
dairy products and eggs or lacto-vegetarians who eat
dairy products but avoid eggs. There are also ovo-vegetarians who are people who
eat eggs but not dairy products and vegans who do not eat dairy products, eggs
or any other products which are derived from animals. According to a Harris
National Interactive poll commissioned by Vegetarian Resource Group (2016),
vegetarian diets are increasing in popularity and more and more people are
reducing their meat intake. So, why is there a global shift towards vegetarianism?
People become vegetarians for various reasons, it could
be because of parental preferences, religious or other beliefs, health issues,
concern over animal rights or even to be economical because meat usually cost a
lot more than vegetables. In conjunction to the raise in the amount of
people embracing vegetarian lifestyles, the number of
restaurants and companies that offers vegetarian and vegan meals have also significantly
raised in the recent years providing more eating options for vegetarians
and the benefits of vegetarianism is getting more recognition by the day. The
international Vegetarian Union (IVU) endorsed the International Vegetarian Week
which consists of 7 days annually from 1st to 7th of
October since 1977 as a movement to support vegetarianism. It promoted in about
13 countries worldwide in 2008 and the number has steadily increased in the
following years. Thus, a key reason for the importance of understanding the
benefits of vegetarian diet is the increasing popularity and acceptance of the
public towards the lifestyle. The purpose of this essay
is to state that vegetarian diet is a better choice from the environmental,
health care and animal rights perspective.

 

The environmental
perspective of benefits on vegetarianism is that it is vital to maintain the
sustainability of earth’s resources. Based on reports from United Nations
Environmental Programme’s international panel of sustainable resource
management, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are
unsustainable as the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion
people by the year 2050. This is because factors like water resources, energy
consumption, chemical fertilizer application, land degradation and pesticide
application contribute to environmental pollution and waste of earth’s natural
resources just to accommodate food demands from agriculture production. Livestock
buildings used for mass production of meat emits contaminant gases that
pollutes and creates greenhouse gases. According to the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, agriculture is responsible for 18 percent
of the total release of greenhouse gases worldwide. This is more than the whole
transportation sector which is one of the most significant contributors to
today’s most serious environmental problems. Besides, 30 percent of the earth’s
entire land surface is used by livestock and another 33 percent of land that is
still capable of growing crops is used to produce feed for livestock globally. New
pastures are created through deforestation, for example, 70 percent of former
forests in the Amazon have been turned over to provide grazing grounds for
livestock. With that being said, it is important for us to stop eating meat or
even take dairy products as this is one of the most effective way to reduce our
personal carbon footprint and reduce our personal negative impact on the
environment.

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Vegetarianism is also
a route to a healthier lifestyle from the health point of view. There were many
researches done on this matter and it has proven that vegetarian diets reduce
risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes
and some cancers. In the medical journal Diabetes Care published in the January
2010 issue, researches reportedly have found a strong correlation between the
amount of animal protein consumed and the risk of developing diabetes. High
ferritin, low glycine and altered hepatic-derived lipid concentrations were
associated with total red meat consumption and, independent of red meat, with
diabetes risk according to a study done by American Society for Nutrition
(2015). Sodium nitrate compounds in processed meat are cancer-causing
substances believed to be responsible for some adverse effects of processed
meat consumption. These compounds are used to preserve the red or pink colour
of meat, improve flavour by suppressing fat oxidation and prevent growth of
bacteria to extend shelf life of processed meat products. On the contrary, vegan
diets are lower in cholesterol and saturated fat levels, high in fibre and aids
in gastrointestinal functions which prevents constipation. Other benefits of
vegan diets are also stated in the Journal of the American Dietic Association
(2010), researches found that consumption of yellow and cruciferous vegetables
like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in particular contributed to longer
survival, while consumption of dairy products and red and processed meats
shortened lifespan. The authors concluded that low-fat, plant-based diets are
not only helpful for cancer prevention but can also increase survival time in
people diagnosed with cancer. Thus, we can conclude that vegetarianism does
bring benefits to human health.

 

Animal rights is
another aspect that needs to be looked into when we talk about vegetarianism.
All use of animals for food, clothing materials, pleasure, as pets or animal
testing involves utilising animals against their will and very so often,
involves their suffering and deaths. This violates their rights as living
beings on earth and should not be seen as inferior nor just solely as resources
or tools for human use. In modern factory farms, animals are injected with
hormones or stimulants to make them grow faster and bigger and deprived of
veterinary care, exercise, sunlight and more. As producers, factory farms seek
to supply whatever consumer demands and it is apparent that the demand for meat
and dairy products have increased in this modern era. According to the FAO
Corporate Document Repository, consumption of meat has been growing at 5 to 6
percent per annum and that of milk and dairy products at 3.4 to 3.8 percent per
annum in the last few decades especially in developing countries, where almost
all world population increases take place. In conjunction of the unhealthy trend,
some countries have taken action to minimise the adverse effects of intense
animal farming. For example, “Foie Gras” – fattened bird liver which is a
well-known delicacy in French cuisine, was banned in California in the year
2012 because it was discovered that many ducks died due to overfeeding and
abuse. Conclusively, ethics that are against eating animals should be enforced
and vegan diets should be highly promoted to the public.

 

However, there are
arguments on the lack of nutrients in vegan diets. Deficiencies of vitamin B12,
calcium, iron and zinc are the most stated essential nutrients that are potentially
missing in vegan diets. Vitamin B12 only available from animal products and the
most common outcomes of very low levels of this vitamin is anaemia, blindness,
muscle weakness, tingling and numbness. Other than that, high levels of zinc in
red meat is believed to be easier to be broken down by the body compared to
than that found in grains and legumes as well. Studies show that phytic acid which
is common in plant food can reduce zinc absorption by attaching to zinc in the
digestive system and preventing absorption (Barbro, Brittmarie & AKE,
2008). On top of that, although lacto-ovovegetarians generally consume adequate
amounts of calcium, vegans typically fall short of the recommended daily intake
for calcium. Inadequate protein and calcium intake has been shown to be
associated with bone loss and fractures at the hip and spine in the elderly
(Chan, Lau, Woo, Lin, Sham & Leong, 1996; Lau, Donnan, Barker & Cooper,
1988). All these factors have caused many to question the downside of going
vegetarian and worries especially parents who intend to make their children go
vegan.

 

Nevertheless, nutritional
balance can still be achieved with properly planned vegetarian diets. Especially
for children who are still growing, dietitians must provide adequate and
realistic meal-planning guidelines for parents with vegan children. According
to both The American Dietetic Association (1997) and The American Academy of
Pediatrics (1998), well-planned vegan diets can support normal growth and
development in children. Essential but potentially lacking minerals in vegan
diets like zinc can be found in beans, whole grains and nuts. Eating fermented
soy or soaking grains and legumes in water or in an acid medium at a warm
temperature will eliminate most of the phytic acid. Furthermore, nutrient
intakes of vegan children are generally sufficient and sometimes exceed those
of omnivore children. According to the study on the growth and development of
vegan children, Sanders and Manning found that British vegan school-aged
children had higher intakes of fibre and all vitamins and minerals except
calcium compared to omnivore children. To make up for the deficiency of
calcium, which is important to build bones in children, vegan diets should
contain adequate amount of calcium-rich food like cheese, yoghurt, milk, tofu,
calcium-fortified non-dairy beverages like soy and dark green leafy vegetables
like spinach and bok choy. Hence, the statement saying that vegan diets are
nutritionally deficient is untrue.

 

As we have seen,
vegetarianism brings more benefits than drawbacks. Vegetarian diets promote
efficient use of earth resources and reduce pollution from waste produced by
livestock from farm factories. This diet also creates a healthy lifestyle, but
a strict regime must be followed to ensure nutrients needed daily is obtained
in sufficient amounts. Moreover, animals have emotions just like humans do and
just because they do not have a speaking voice, their rights are very so often
violated and changing to a vegetarian diet can reduce market demands and
subsequently decrease the existence of farm factories. With all the above aspects,
we can conclude that vegetarian diet is a good food choice that not only
ensures our health but also the ecosystem. Despite vegetarianism being a
positive choice, it takes time to encourage more people to join the movement
thus authorities with information on related field should widely educate the
public on the benefits of embracing a vegetarian lifestyle.