Should all people be vegetarian?

I’m so blessed to have an inspiring mother, always following her heart and pursuing impactful (although difficult) fields. She has been a vegan for around 8 years. I’ve been gradually making my transition towards a vegan lifestyle. A few years back, I completely cut out dairy products. Throughout the last year, I’ve gradually cut down on red meat & poultry, and have now excluded seafood as well. Another person who’s sparked my interest in this field is nutritional therapist Alia Almoayyed. (http://aliaalmoayed.com)
Now that the little bit of background is out of the way, here’s what happened last week.
A good friend sent me a text, “Fahad – there’s a debate competition coming up in our university! … What do you think?” – “Let’s do this!”

Btw, this friend and I love to argue. Our most common argument is Communism vs. Free-Market Capitalism, which I think shouldn’t even be an argument. (As toilet paper has taught us, Free-Market Capitalism is much better) Of course, we always respect each others opinions and haven’t gotten into a fight (yet).
We attended the initial meeting to register and receive our topics. The topics were well-chosen. For each topic one team argues for the affirmative and the other against. There were four topics in total.
However, there was one topic that really caught my eye: ‘Should all people be vegetarian?’
Yes, our chances were only 12.5%, but we got the topic. The organiser apologised, “Sorry, you ended up getting the hardest argument!”. I couldn’t have disagreed more. Here’s the opening speech.
__________
Esteemed Judges, Ladies, & Gentlemen, I’m so excited to be having this debate, and so lucky to be on this side – promoting what I truly believe in. This topic focuses on a serious issue that each and every one of us deals with constantly every day. What most of us are unaware of, however, is that we are we are experiencing a huge epidemic.
How you ever stopped to question yourself… “How did this piece of meat end up on my plate?”
Paul McCartney stated, “If slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” We wouldn’t even be here having this debate. (Additional resource: Watch ‘Earthlings’ http://earthlings.com/?page_id=32)
Poultry, by the hundreds of millions, crowded in spaces so small they can’t even turn around. They literally live in their own excrement, overdosed with antibiotics so that they can survive long enough – never having seen the light of day or smelled fresh air. Cows are skinned alive, and you can hear pigs shrieking and screaming as they’re turned into ground meat. The list goes on, and on. By deciding to put meat on our plates, this is exactly what we’re promoting. We should all be very aware of this undeniable atrocity.
Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” To elaborate on his point, the moral progression of our human race as a whole, can be judged by the way we treat all of our animals (without exceptions), and for that, we should all be extremely shameful.
Years from now, we will look back and think – “How on earth did we eat meat?” the same we look back and say, “How on earth did we have slaves?”.
As more and more of us start becoming vegetarian, the days of vicious slaughterhouses will come to an end.
Let’s take a look at this issue from another angle, which is our health, and the health of our loved ones.
In a recent study by Harvard, surveying over 100,000 people for 28 years (making it the most conclusive study carried out thus far), their conclusion was that the adequate amount of red meat that should be in a human’s diet is … 0.
With a vegetarian diet our health improves drastically. In another study, covering over 120,000 people, vegetarians, on average, lived over 5 years longer than meat-eaters and sustained a far better quality of life.
So we don’t even need to consume meat, but we’re killing these animals anyway. Not feed our need, but simply to feed our greed.
According to a multitude of studies, eating meat is directly correlated with an increased risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol, and more. I challenge the opposition to name just one disease that is induced by a plant based diet.
_________
The speech was limited to 3 minutes, thus I wasn’t able to go into the environmental benefits during this speech, which are also quite profound. Attached below are just some of the references & citations used.
Mistreatment of Animals:
Many animals raised for food are not slaughtered humanely. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) mandates that livestock be stunned unconscious before slaughter to minimize suffering. [65] However, birds such as chickens and turkey are exempted from the HMSA, and many US slaughterhouses routinely ignore the HMSA. [66] A 2010 report by the US Government Accountability Organization (GAO) found that the USDA was not “taking consistent actions to enforce the HMSA.” [90]
  1. Jeff Welty, “Humane Slaughter Laws” (296 KB) Law and Contemporary Problems, 2007
Raising animals in confinement is cruel.About 50% of meat produced in the United States comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) [41]where animals live in filthy, overcrowded spaces. In CAFOs pigs have their tails cut off, chickens have their toenails and beaks clipped off, and cows have their horns removed and tails cut off with no painkillers. [32] Pregnant pigs are kept in metal gestation crates barely bigger than they are. [35] Baby cows raised for veal are tied up and confined in tiny stalls their entire short lives (3-18 weeks). [[36]
  1. Doug Gurian-Sherman, “CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations” (5.6 MB) , http://www.ucsusa.org, Apr. 2008
Environment:

The 2006 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions — by comparison, all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. [2]

As a result of the above point producing meat damages the environment. The demand for meat drives deforestation. Daniel Cesar Avelino of Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecution Office says “We know that the single biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon is cattle.” This clearing of tropical rainforests such as the Amazon for agriculture is estimated to produce 17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.[3] Not only this but the production of meat takes a lot more energy than it ultimately gives us chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1.

The same is true with water use due to the same phenomenon of meat being inefficient to produce in terms of the amount of grain needed to produce the same weight of meat, production requires a lot of water. Water is another scarce resource that we will soon not have enough of in various areas of the globe. Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food. Raising broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to make a kilogram of meat. In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat, 900; and potatoes, 500 liters.[4] This is while there are areas of the globe that have severe water shortages. With farming using up to 70 times more water than is used for domestic purposes: cooking and washing. A third of the population of the world is already suffering from a shortage of water.[5] Groundwater levels are falling all over the world and rivers are beginning to dry up. Already some of the biggest rivers such as China’s Yellow river do not reach the sea.[6]

Producing one hamburger destroys 55 square feet of rainforest. [22] Between 1996-2006, 25 million acres of Amazon rainforest were cleared—80% of which became pasture for beef cattle. [20] In 2009, the United States imported 44,284 tons [23] of processed Brazilian beef mostly for use in hamburgers, hot dogs, and lunch meats. Importing fresh Brazilian beef became legal in Nov. 2010, and US beef imports from Brazil will likely increase. [21]
  1. John Robbins, “The Food Revolution: Once Upon a Planet, Part I,” http://www.celsias.com, Nov. 11, 2007
Health:
Studies show that vegetarians are up to 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. [12] According to a peer-reviewed 1994 study by Harvard researchers, consuming beef, pork, or lamb five or more times a week significantly increases the risk of colon cancer. [102] The World Cancer Research Fund found that eating processed meats such as bacon or sausage increases this risk even further. [48] A 2014 study found that diets high in animal protein were associated with a 4-fold increase in cancer death risk compared to high protein diets based on plant-derived protein sources. [132]
  1. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), “Vegetarian Foods: Powerful for Health” (106 KB) , http://www.pcrm.org (accessed Dec. 23, 2010)

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the USA, and the UK. Studies show people who eat a plant based diet suffer from 2.5 times fewer cardiac events, including heart attack, stroke, bypass surgery, and angioplasty. Studies (PETA) also show, a completly animal-free diet can not only prevent but reverse heart disease. (according to another source) A vegetariand diet lowers the risk of heart disease. [64] According to a peer-reviewed 1999 study of 76,000 people, vegetarians had 24% lower mortality from heart disease than meat eaters. [7] A vegetarian diet also helps lower blood pressure, prevent hypertension, and thus reduce the risk of stroke. [8]

  1. Erik J. Lindbloom, “Long-Term Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet,” American Family Physician, Apr. 1, 2009

Cross-Examination Questions:

Isnt it somewhat unethical that the few rainforests left are demolished for ranches and cattle fields? People with a vegetarian diet require a tenth of the space for the same amount of food then an ominvourous one.

Isnt it cruel to imprison animals into a space where they cant even lift a wing (with poultry), cant turn round, never smell air nor see the sky nor touch a blade of grass?
Animals have similar physiology to us in terms of pain receptors etc, isnt it wrong that they suffer such unspeakable slaughterhouse and factory farming cruelties
Livestock accounts for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and 18% of all greenhouse gas from human activities – how do you justify the damage to the environment that consuming meat has?

Does it not concern you that by eating (and encouraging) a diet high in animal products, yourself (and your loved ones) are increasing your (their) likleyhood to die from what is already the biggest killer in the USA/UK?

Counter-Arguments:
Vegetarians don’t get enough protein.
According to the American Dietetic Association a vegetarian diet can meet protein requirements and provide all the essential amino-acids (the building blocks of protein) a person needs for optimal health. Vernon R. Young and Peter L. Pellett, “Plant Proteins in Relation to Human Protein and Amino Acid Nutrition,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1994

We’re designed to be omnivores.

Human evolved as omnivores over thousands of years. Yet since the invention of farming there is no longer a need for us to be omnivores. Even if we wished to we could no longer collect, hunt and eat our food in the same way as our ancestors as we could not support the human population. We have outstripped the pace of our evolution and if we do not want to be turning ever more land over to farming we have get our food from the most efficient sources, which means being vegetarian.

There are problems with being vegetarian.

The problems with fatigue, apathetic behaviour and concentration are mostly a result from a lack of iron in the diet. However as with any diet this is only a problem when not eating the right things, this regularly means that such iron deficiency can be a problem in the developing world where vegetarians have little choice – usually eating little else except what they grow, normally just cereals.  “Although the iron stores of vegetarians are sometimes reduced, the incidence of iron-deficiency anaemia in vegetarians is not significantly different from that in the general population”, there are plenty of sources of iron that can be eaten by vegetarians such as legumes and whole grains that are a substantial part of most western vegetarian’s diets meaning it is not a problem.[1] Research done in Australia concludes that “There was no significant difference between mean daily iron intakes of vegetarians and omnivores”.[2]

[1] David Ogilvie, Nutrition: Iron and Vegetarian Diets, Vegetarian Network Victoria, September 2010.

[2] Madeleine J Ball and Melinda A Bartlett, ‘Dietary intake and iron status of Australian vegetarian women’, American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 1999

I’m aware that this is quite controversial, and going vegetarian or vegan may seem quite extreme. But even by just reducing the intake of red meat, or cutting down on lean meats while increasing plant-based foods, we could play an active role in minimising our ecological footprint, reducing the mistreatment of animals, and becoming healthier.
I’d love to get your questions or comments below.
It was a fiery and heated debate, and my emotional attachment to this topic definitely clouded my judgement at times. The rest of the team members did a great job!
As they tallied up the scores of the four judges, we waited impatiently for the results. Then, just as it seemed the results were going to be announced, they asked the judges to convene once more. We waited for a few more minutes.
Finally, the announcer stated, “The Affirmative side wins.”
The scoreboard: 772-768.

6 responses

  1. well done and well researched Fahad. Would have been more interesting if the debate was in Chinese. was it? 😉
    Thanks for the mention and can’t wait to read your next blog x

    Like

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