101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian (2009)By Pamela Rice
Eight Edition, pamphlet version
1 Nearly all of the approximately 10 billion animals slaughtered for food in the U.S. every year are the end result of a behemothic, swift-moving, assembly-line system, incorporating dangerous, unprecedented, and unsustainable methods of production. Cheap meat could never exist if the meat industry were required by law to give the animals humane living conditions, including spacious quarters, clean surroundings, fresh air, sunlight, and opportunities for social interaction, nor if it were simply illegal to drug the animals who would otherwise die from the conditions in which they live. Time and again the industry balks at even low-cost measures designed to improve the animals’ plight. And now, prices have been driven to unnaturally low levels for the final end products, making these cruel, unsustainable foods staples of the American diet.
2 America’s farmed animals produce 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, or 5 tons for every U.S. citizen. (Just one cow produces 100 pounds in a day.) And the pollution strength of it all can reach levels 160 times greater than that of raw municipal sewage. This vast accumulation is not neatly contained; manure is the most common pollutant today in America’s waters. Land sprayed with pig excrement is particularly toxic, since pigs contract and transmit many human diseases—namely, meningitis, salmonella, chlamydia, giardia, cryptosporidiosis, worms, and influenza. Manure is laden with phosphorous, nitrates, and heavy metals and emits ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and cyanide. Manure has always been seen as fertilizer. But in today’s quantities, it is a menacing under-regulated industrial pollutant.
3 When people follow a diet rich in animal fat and protein and get little exercise, cancer risk is increased. Beef consumption raises the level of toxic substances called N-nitroso compounds, which are formed in the large intestines. The substances are believed to adhere to DNA, making mutations more likely. Dietary fiber could be helpful in repairing the damage. But, remember, only plant foods contain fiber.
4 The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 70 percent of the world’s commercial fish stocks are fully exploited, overfished, or collapsed. To supply surging world demand, fishers use rapacious techniques, such as sonar, driftnets, longlines, dredgers, and leviathan fish-packing vessels. In the case of longlining, 4.5 million hooks are launched daily. Now, 90 percent of the coveted top predator fish are gone. Consequently, fishers have moved down the food web to species once considered “trash.” These species, of course, are the food source of the fish that were initially overfished. Amazingly, a third of the world’s harvested fish go to feed livestock or farmed fish. The ocean’s interconnected ecosystem simply cannot keep pace. In 2006, a report published in the journal Science estimated that by 2048 all wild commercial fish stocks would be wiped out.
5 The Humane Slaughter Act requires that mammals be rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered. A Washington Post series some years ago, however, exposed a packing industry hard pressed to follow this law. Animals were found regularly butchered alive on speeded-up conveyor lines. A $5 million appropriation was consequently enacted to hire more humane inspectors for kill floors across the nation, but the funds ended up being diverted to food-safety inspectors already employed. In the end, the Humane law does not even apply to 99 percent of animals slaughtered, because poultry birds and fish are not covered by it.
6 A meat diet dramatically raises your risk for heart attack, but in recent years you’re less likely to die from it. Technology will probably save your life, leaving you to live with the consequences. In the case of congestive heart failure—an increasingly common outcome—your heart, now damaged, is unable to adequately circulate blood to the rest of your body, resulting in fluid build-up and organ damage. In the U.S., nearly 5 million people live with heart failure, and about 550,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. The disease is the leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly, and hospital bills attributed to it total $29 billion annually.
7 Pigs are naturally anything but dirty and brutish and, if given half a chance, display high intelligence. Ask Professor Stanley Curtis of Pennsylvania State University. He taught several pigs to understand complex relationships between objects and actions in order to play video games. Curtis, along with his colleagues, found these creatures to be focused, creative, and innovative—equal in intelligence to chimpanzees. Other researchers have found chickens to be good at solving problems, cows to respond to music, and fish to be as individualistic as dogs.
8 Approximately 800 million people today live with chronic hunger, and 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes every day. Yet the world cycles nearly 43 percent of all the grain that is harvested through animals to produce meat. No matter the species, feed-to-flesh ratios are inefficient—7, 3.5, 2, and 3 pounds to 1 for beef, pork, chicken, and farmed fish, respectively. Biofuel production with-in one recent year gobbled up 110 million additional tons of grain, raising food prices and putting pressure on the world’s fragile food security. Compare this to the 840 million tons within the same year that was snatched from the mouths of the poor to feed livestock. Those who care about world hunger need to eat less meat.
9 A 2005 report by Environmental Defense estimated that 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. go to chickens, hogs, and beef cattle, “...not to treat disease, but rather to promote growth and to compensate for crowded, stressful, and often unhygienic conditions on industrial-scale farms.” Also, according to the report, antibiotics deemed important to human medicine “comprise nearly half of the overall quantity of antibiotics used as feed additives,” a particularly troubling fact in light of growing worldwide antibiotic resistance.
10 Every year, Americans suffer from approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths because of something they ate. That something was probably of animal origin. The main culprits are E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter. The annual cost to the U.S. for the top five food borne pathogens, all originating in animal-derived food production, is $6.9 billion.
11 Bypass surgery requires that your rib cage be opened, your heart stopped, and your body hooked up to an external pumping machine so a vein from some other part of your body can be removed and grafted as a replacement blood vessel to your heart. Memory, language ability, and spatial orientation remain impaired in up to half of bypass patients six months afterward. Side effects for some people never go away. Gloom and depression affect up to 75 percent of patients. Many will require a second bypass operation. A vegan diet and regular exercise, along with spiritual and social fulfillment have proven to reverse heart disease—the biggest killer in Western countries.
12 Supplying the corn and soybeans that feed the livestock that bring the daily meat to America’s dinner plates has meant that large concentrations of pesticides, fertilizers, and farm chemicals are seeping into our aquifers. Some towns in the Midwest have consequently come to rely on their neighbors for fresher, though expensive, supplies of water. But a recent boom in cattle and pig operations has poisoned these stores as well, prompting plans for government-subsidized pipelines to link towns with major rivers. With the demand for meat continuing unabated, such plans of action become strangely logical.
13 Eating a plant-based diet guards against disease—first, in an active way with complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Then by default—the more plant foods you eat, the less room you have for animal foods that clog arteries with cholesterol, strain kidneys with excess protein, and burden the heart with saturated fat. Clinical studies have shown that high-fiber, meat-free diets reverse diabetic symptoms and reduce cholesterol levels by about as much as the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
14 Livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent, a share 38 percent higher than that emitted by all the world’s vehicles, combined. Domesticated animals worldwide are the source of 37 percent of all human-induced methane, with most of that coming from the intestinal fermentation of ruminants. They are also the source of 65 percent of human-induced nitrous oxide, the great majority from manure. Methane and nitrous oxide are exceedingly more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Livestock are also behind almost two-thirds of all human-induced ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acidification of ecosystems.
15 Governments try to regulate fishing gear, catch size, species caught, and fishing season, but usually without success. Perhaps the greatest single threat to global fish stocks is illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing, which, it is estimated, amounts to about a quarter of the world’s catch. In some locations, IUU fishing has been documented to amount to four times the legal catch. Efforts to combat piracy are fraught with obstacles, not the least being feverish world demand for fish. For the pirates, the return on investment is well worth the minimal risks, as they side-step fishing conventions, skirt surveillance, off-load fish to other boats that “launder” the catch, and dock at complicit ports.
16 Egg-laying hens in the U.S. are crammed into battery cages, each with 4 to 8 other birds, stacked in rows by the tens of thousands. Manure and rotting carcass fumes billow up from below. Beetles form a layer over the waste. Some birds get loose and drown in the pit. Others get tangled in the wire and die of dehydration, then decompose, covered in bugs, while cage mates have no escape. Intense stress causes birds to attack one another. After 17 months of confinement, necks are covered with blisters, wings are bare, combs bloody, and feet torn. By now, the birds are considered an expense and will be disposed of expediently—read: cruelly.
17 Early in 2007, Consumer Reports tested 525 supermarket chickens from all across the U.S. and found only 17 percent free of both salmonella and campylobacter. Premium brands labeled “organic” or “raised free of antibiotics” actually harbored more salmonella than conventional ones. Most of the bacteria were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic—and some samples showed resistance to multiple strains.
18 Two major studies have emerged in recent years that show the vegan lifestyle to be conducive to lower body weight. A Swedish study of 55,000 women and a British study of 65,000 men and women both found vegans to have lower BMIs (body mass index) and to suffer less often from obesity. Vegan food tends often to be lower in calories by volume. And since plant-based fare is likely to contain dietary fiber, it satiates quicker.
19 Half of every butchered cow and a third of every butchered pig becomes either byproduct material or waste. And “mortalities” are integral to every feedlot and stockyard. What’s an industry to do with all this death and gore? Call the renderer straightaway! Recycling, they call it. Lips are exported to Mexico for taco filling; horns are made into gelatin; other parts are fashioned into drugs, aphrodisiacs, and industrial ingredients. Much is dried to a tacky brown powder to be mixed into chicken and pig feed. The rest is minced, pulverized, and boiled down for cosmetics and household products. Essentially, assume slaughterhouse byproduct is all around you.
20 Of all the animals in America who suffer cruelty, 95 percent of them are farmed animals. Designated as economic units, they have conveniently been stripped of nearly all protections against abuse. At the federal level, the Animal Welfare Act simply does not apply to farmed animals. At the state level, where laws might pick up the slack, anti-cruelty statutes are either not enforced or have, in recent decades, been re-written to exclude farmed animals. Re-wording has been key. If a farming practice is established as “accepted,” “common,” “customary,” or “normal”—no matter how inhumane—anti-cruelty protections are overridden.
21 In the mid-1970s, chicken processors argued that in order to keep up with skyrocketing demand they should be allowed to merely rinse off fecal matter from bird carcasses rather than cut away affected parts. The government gave in to the processors’ request, and the rule stands to this day. A number of studies have since proved that rinsing carcasses, even up to 40 times, is ineffective at dislodging the filth. It’s something to know since the violent motion of defeathering machinery not only works to squirt feces out from the carcasses, it can push filth deep into the crevices of the birds’ skin.
22 Several of the world’s mightiest rivers no longer reach the sea, and aquifer levels around the world are dropping by dozens, and even hundreds, of feet. Largely responsible is the fivefold increase in worldwide (water-guzzling) meat production that’s taken place over the last half-century. Producing a pound of animal protein requires about 100 times the water needed to produce a pound of vegetable protein. It takes about 1,300 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger. Seventy percent of the fresh water that is taken from the world’s rivers, lakes, and underground wells goes to agriculture, and 43 percent of the world’s grain goes to feed animals for meat.
23 Feedlot meat is a product of the oil age. When cheap oil is gone, cheap meat “will be history.” A pound of beef takes three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce, according to National Geographic. A 1,250-pound steer essentially embodies 283 gallons of oil. Thirty-five calories of fossil fuel are needed to produce a single calorie of beef protein. By comparison, only 2 calories of fossil fuel are required to produce 1 calorie of tofu.
24 Today’s confined cattle live in their own excrement, which is the carrier of the deadly E. coli strain O157:H7. Caked-on manure will migrate to edible portions during de-hiding, thanks to line speeds of 390 animals per hour and laborers who are not always properly skilled. Ground beef today contains the flesh of hundreds or even thousands of animals. The grinding process brings surface pathogens to patty interiors that may, down the line, not be cooked adequately. A university study found that O157:H7 may even be harbored in the interior of a solid piece of meat.
25 Wild salmon stocks in 20 Norwegian rivers have in recent years been wiped out by a parasite that first took hold in local aquaculture feedlots. Scottish river managers warned in 2007 that one careless angler spreading the parasite could decimate Scotland’s wild salmon stocks as well. Pharmaceuticals and pesticides are typically added to all aquaculture pens to forestall disease and infection, sometimes doing neither, and consequently causing environmental havoc.
26 Birds are cheap and cages are expensive, so battery hens live out their dreary days in space just about the size of their own bodies. No hen gets to run, build a nest, enjoy a cleansing dust bath, protect a chick, forage in the sun, perch, fly, or even lift a wing. Instead, this creature will crouch and suffer and fend off the feather pulling of cage mates. And every egg that is laid will roll away down the slope of a wire floor, which will also cripple her legs and feet.
27 The senseless waste of the world’s growing meat-centered diet is illustrated by a hypothetical statement put forth by the Population Reference Bureau: “If everyone adopted a vegetarian diet and no food were wasted, current [food] production would theoretically feed 10 billion people [47.5 percent more people than alive today], more than the projected population for the year 2050.”
28 It’s official. Dateline: June 11, 2009. Swine flu is a pandemic— the first in 41 years. Such damage! Yet scant mainstream news regarding the cause of this global outbreak. The blogs, though, are revealing that the first cases of this strain (H1N1) occurred in a region of Mexico heavily dominated with factory-farming operations half owned by Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the world. Whether or not this region can be pinpointed does not take away from the fact that all influenza in humans is the result of the ongoing domestication of animals for meat consumption, and influenza’s many strains kill about 500,000 people worldwide each year.
29 Every spring, neighbors of chicken feedlots in North Carolina desperately complain about the stench. It is then that ammonia-laden fumes from adjacent manure lagoons begin to permeate everything porous that they own: clothes, rugs, drapes, and hair—haunting them for weeks. But unlike the state’s infamous pork industry of 10 million hogs, poultry growing is virtually exempt from environmental regulation. For North Carolina’s 165 million tightly confined birds, there are no rules, because their waste is considered less noxious. But over a year’s time, the droppings and mortalities accumulate in pits below to about a foot deep and, to some, smell even worse than lagoons of pig excrement. Nearby wells become tainted from runoff, but it’s nearly impossible to trace this kind of pollution back to the polluter.
30 A male calf born to a dairy cow—what’s a farmer to do with this by-product of the milk industry? If he is not kept for breeding stock or immediately slaughtered or factory-produced for meat, the calf will be raised for fancy veal. To this end, he will be locked up in a stall (see image above, human outreach activist inside) and chained by his neck to prevent him from turning around for 16 weeks until slaughter. He’ll be fed a special diet without iron or roughage. He’ll be injected with antibiotics and hormones to keep him alive and to make him grow. And he’ll be kept in darkness except for feeding time. The result: a nearly full-grown animal with flesh as tender and white as a newborn’s.
31 The so-called “Green Revolution”—a shorthand description for the era in recent decades of amazing, super-efficient grain production, which facilitated a rapid explosion in human population—has clearly stalled out. Per capita worldwide cereal availability has been declining since 1984, and the “promise” of biotech is far from certain or free of risk. Today, 70 percent of grain in the U.S. and 43 percent of grain worldwide lavishly go to feed livestock. And just as the world clamors for more grain to feed to animals—so people can eat them—per-capita world cropland declined by 20 percent in the 1990s alone. The WHO says 800 million people in the world live with chronic hunger. More meat production is definitely not the answer.
32 A USDA inspector, part of an ABC Primetime investigation, clandestinely filmed a plant that pro-cesses a million pounds of chicken for schools each year. The investigator found carcasses laden with yellow sores and fecal matter and machines caked with harmful residues. The plant had repeatedly failed salmonella tests. Some of the cheapest, most unsanitary meat tends to be sold to schools.
33 Numerous Web sites instruct in the craft of artificial insemination of pigs, turkeys, and cows. In other words, bestiality is integral to today’s farming operations. Sample excerpts follow: “As he sniffs around, put on disposable gloves. If he has mounted the stool, he will begin thrusting movements. With a gloved hand, rub his sheath. Now reach for the cup. The penis will erect and start to enter your clenched hand. Continue to hold the penis until the boar withdraws. The end of ejaculation is determined by a bouncing of the penis.” With the sow, “a stockperson must mimic some of the stimulation normally provided by a boar, that is, back pressure and flank and udder rubbing. When the lips of the vulva are gently parted, insert the catheter.”
34 The late parent advisor Dr. Benjamin Spock maintained that cows’ milk “causes internal blood loss, allergies, and indigestion and contributes to some cases of childhood diabetes.” In the last edition of his famous baby book he recommended, essentially, that children adhere to a vegan diet after the age of two. But he did not recommend dairy milk for babies either. According to renowned nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell, “Cows’-milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed.”
35 University research has determined that the feeding of approximately 10 million tons of poultry litter to U.S. cattle and other livestock every year is safe. But the mere presence of wasted feed in the mix, which otherwise includes excreta, carcass parts, bedding, and feathers, could include the stray remains of cattle. This would seem to violate the 1997 USDA rule that no cow is to eat the flesh of another cow, instituted to thwart the spread of mad cow disease. Also, poultry litter needs to be properly composted to neutralize microbial toxins—in practice not always accomplished. Furthermore, livestock so fed need sufficient time to flush out veterinary medications that might have tainted the litter. Finally, feeding poultry litter to livestock provides one more vector for the spread of bird flu.
36 Beef cattle are best suited to moist climates, such as those in Europe where their ancestors evolved. But ranchers in America’s West continue the destructive tradition of grazing their animals on the nation’s most arid land. Grazing destroys ecologically regenerative riparian zones. According to a 2006 U.N. report, “the livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity…as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas, and facilitation of invasions by alien species.”
37 Adopting a high-protein fad diet may help you lose weight in the short run, but so might chemotherapy, food poisoning, or serious illness. If health is what you desire, you’re eventually going to have to learn how to eat. Resoundingly, the American Heart Association and other major health organizations warn people against the Atkins and other low-carb diets, because they can cause fatigue or dizziness and strain the kidneys. Often unbeknownst to the dieter, these meal plans induce dehydration. Also, upping fat and lowering carbohydrate intake has been found to impair brain function over time.
38 Genetics through single-trait selection has become as important a component of today’s intensive farming as drugs and confinement hardware. The animals themselves, right down to their DNA, must stand up to the rigors of the industrial process, both in life and in carcass form. They must produce at breakneck speeds and do so on as little feed as possible. And ultimately, the particular output each farmed animal unwillingly supplies must please our final end user, the consumer, in texture, taste, uniformity, convenience, and price. Mutant genes that would never survive in the wild are cultivated to monstrous ends.
39 Officially, Wildlife Services, a program of the USDA, prevents “damage to agriculture.” Never mind that agriculture is hugely damaging to wildlife. This multi-million-dollar perk for cattle ranchers exists primarily to eradicate predators and to cull species thought to spread disease. Non-target wildlife is often caught in the cross-hairs. Wildlife Services agents shoot, poison, gas, electrocute, and lethally trap millions of mammals and birds on public land where only 3.8 percent of the nation’s beef is even derived. The methods are cruel and excessive and even ineffective. The program has decimated populations of grizzly bears, mountain lions, moose, elk, buffaloes, and coyotes. An intriguing global study in 2005 actually found that predators inflict negligible damage to ranching operations.
40 Many Americans are not getting enough magnesium. Deficiencies can cause irritability, seizures, delirium, depression, abnormal heart rhythms, spasms of the coronary arteries, anemia, blood clots, abnormal blood pressure, and even death. Where is this nutrient found? Whole grains, fruits, dark-green leafy vegetables, nuts, and, best of all, raw cacao.
41 Results from two major studies involving tens of thousands of subjects—one in the UK (University of Leads, 2007), the other in the U.S. (Nurses’ Health Study, 2006)—suggest that the more red meat a woman eats the more she is at risk for breast cancer, regardless of her age. Suspected culprits include saturated fat, growth hormones fed to cattle, heme iron (only in red meat), and heterocyclic amines (carcinogens produced during the cooking process).
42 When faced with a flock of spent hens, an egg producer may choose to induce production again by way of a forced molt—accomplished with starvation and water deprivation for periods of up to two weeks. No U.S. law prevents this heinous practice. Some major U.S. producers have phased it out but then need to bring twice the number of hens into production for the same number of eggs.
43 Fish make vibratory sounds with various “calls” that researchers have identified as communicating alarm and aggravation. They possess fully formed nervous systems as well as complex social behaviors. They are also capable of learning complicated tasks. A 2009 Purdue University study found that fish not only feel pain—a finding that corroborates a number of other studies—but react to pain in much the same way as humans.
44 In America today, only four companies slaughter 59 percent of all the hogs, only four companies slaughter over 83 percent of all the cattle, and only two companies slaughter nearly 47 percent of all the chickens. At the farm level, the trend over recent decades has been for many fewer operations to produce many more animals. In 1967, for example, there were over a million hog farms. By 1998, the number had fallen to 114,000. This trend has funneled many of America’s farmers into contract, or franchise-like, arrangements that take choices about herd densities, feed, and veterinary care away from them. The changes have ushered in a polluted landscape, a host of new pathogens, and a hell on Earth for the animals.
45 The 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham challenged the world about animals with his famous quandary: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Curiously, science is every day discovering that in fact animals do all three: reason, communicate, and suffer. The differences between animals and humans are being blurred with every revelation. Man’s closest relatives share over 98 percent of our DNA, and all animals, including man, are related by a common ancestor. Today’s question must now be—can we humans use our known capacity for logic, communication, and empathy to take animals off our plates?
46 Arsenic has been a common additive in factory chicken feed for nearly 50 years. It is used to kill parasites, reduce stress, and promote growth in the birds. The practice has long been deemed safe. Recently, however, scientists have found that the substance turns carcinogenic rather quickly after application. Arsenic-imbued manure becomes toxic to the environment when spread as fertilizer. The risk for those who ingest the meat of treated birds is, in fact, worse than once thought, particularly since exposure to arsenic is cumulative and people are eating three times the amount of chicken they once did in the 1960s.
47 If you like the idea of being welcome at the places where your food is produced, don’t count on poultry growers allowing you, the consumer, access to their massive sheds of monocultured birds any time soon. Without natural immunities that could otherwise be acquired by outdoor life, today’s flocks need to be protected from the slightest infection. When operators are lax in applying rigorous measures of “biosecurity,” a case of the sniffles in one bird can potentially escalate to a mass outbreak, forcing a giant cull involving millions of birds.
48 Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, slaughtered 27 million pigs in 2005. Pound for pound this number represents, in equivalent human weight, the combined population of the 32 largest U.S. cities, yet only 26 percent of all the pigs that are slaughtered in the country as a whole. North Carolina’s pigs alone emit the waste-equivalent of 40 million people, and essentially none of it is treated.
49 A study of 49 island countries found 55 percent of their coral reefs overfished. To sustainably harvest the million metric tons of fish taken annually from the islands, 30,000 square miles more reef—or the equivalent of nearly four Great Barrier Reefs—would be needed. Demand for reef fish is largely coming from Hong Kong traders, who are now supplying a burgeoning market in Mainland China. Reef fish take 5 to 10 years to reach breeding age and so are particularly vulnerable. Fishers capture the fish live using cyanide, destroying coral in the process; three quarters of the fish die even before getting to their market destinations.
50 According to one study, when diabetics eat copious amounts of dietary fiber they are able to control their blood-sugar levels significantly. Such fiber, which is only found in plants, also helps people lose weight because of its ability to satiate. According to a European study of 400,000 people, a high-fiber diet can slash the risk for deadly cancers by up to 40 percent.
51 About a decade ago, the U.S. government began formulating updated rules for manure management on the nation’s confined animal feeding operations. The rules, which now regulate only 40 percent of the nation’s largest feedlots, have not only been ridiculously overdue in their implementation but have amounted to nothing more than permits to pollute as usual. And the vast majority of the nation’s mostly moderate-sized livestock operations are simply urged to follow recommended guidelines voluntarily. In 2004, the EPA granted a sweetheart deal to 130 companies representing thousands of mega-feedlots when it allowed them amnesty from the Clean Air Act in exchange for scientific monitoring. In 2009, the Obama administration declared that the so-called cow tax, which would regulate methane, was off the table.
52 Animal agriculture routinely mutilates farmed animals for its own convenience and often simply out of tradition. Debeaking, branding, castration, ear notching, wing and comb removal, dehorning, teeth clipping, and tail and toe docking are ever-present tasks on today’s farm and ranch. Laborers, not veterinarians, perform the surgeries, employing restraint, not anesthesia.
53 Male chicks are a bothersome expense to the egg producer. Sexers must be hired to pick them out for diversion to expedient deaths. No law protects the baby birds as they are dumped in trash bins to die by crushing, suffocation, starvation, and exposure.
54 Fish and shellfish farming, or aquaculture, is no less disruptive to the environment than taking fish from the wild. Shoreline pens replace mangroves, the habitats where wild fish would otherwise regenerate. Some farmed species will not breed in captivity, so fish farmers must steal juveniles, who never get a chance to reproduce, from the wild. There are numerous cases where farmed fish have escaped into the wild, corrupting the genetic purity of native species and spreading disease. Large-scale biomass fishing for fishmeal threatens vast ecosystems. Feed-to-flesh ratios soar in some farmed species to 25 to 1. Nitrogenous waste poisons the seabed floor below cages that hold fish in unnatural densities.
55 Between 1980 and 2004, meat production in the developing world tripled, amounting to well over half of the world’s output. Dense concentrations of corralled industrial livestock, which create vast quantities of manure, now skirt the edges of major cities in Asia and Latin America, causing severe environmental damage.
56 People who eat a lot of fish are increasingly falling victim to the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning. Women, in particular, are putting their babies at risk for irreparable brain damage when they eat seafood high in mercury while pregnant, and even beforehand. According to the EPA, about 630,000 newborns in the United States every year—roughly 15 percent of all—may be exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in the womb.
57 Hoof-and-mouth disease is rarely fatal for livestock, but it remains a death sentence just the same. When blisters form on hooves and lips, and growth slows because of fever, economics prescribe execution and incineration. In 2001, Great Britain responded to an outbreak by destroying nearly 6 million mostly healthy cattle, sheep, and pigs at a cost of [U.S.]$9 billion—to save its export trade. There were actually only 2,030 known cases of the disease. The rest were exterminated to provide buffers to contain the outbreak.
58 Some years ago a New York Times story featured an Ohio schoolteacher who discovered that a “swirling poison” invaded his home from a nearby hog farm and “robbed him of his memory, his balance, and his ability to work. It left him with mood swings, a stutter, and fistfuls of pills.” His diagnosis: irreversible brain damage from hydrogen sulfide gas. But the source of the H2S was half a mile away. Only after visits to 14 different doctors was the cause of his symptoms determined. Surprisingly low levels of the gas will eat the brain over time. Neighbors of industrial hog farms will also experience diarrhea, nosebleeds, earaches, lung burns, chronic sinusitis, asthma, and corroded lungs.
59 Genetic manipulation has created monsters as well as monstrous suffering for farmed animals. Cloning threatens to jack up the misery yet another notch. Its general use is probably a ways off, provided it becomes commercially viable at all. Meanwhile, as the scientists tinker, their cloned creations will suffer from premature deaths and deformities, and the resultant meat and milk are sure to enter the human food supply.
60 Before 1981, E. coli O157:H7 poisoning didn’t exist. Today, the deadly strain infects 80 percent of cattle on America’s feedlots. You can blame a change in feed for this. To make the animals grow five times the rate they would on hay, feedlot operators foisted a corn-based diet onto the cattle and provided the perfect environment for O157:H7 to emerge. Now this terrible strain is regularly poisoning our raw vegetables and fruits via cross contamination. (See #70.)
61 From the animal-feed breadbasket and feedlots of the nation’s Midwest, massive amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, and manure-runoff travel down the Mississippi River. This high-nutrient mix causes an eco-chain reaction that ends with microscopic organisms robbing oxygen from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Marine life must relocate or suffocate. The phenomenon is known as hypoxia. Scientists have dubbed affected areas “dead zones.” Each summer the Gulf’s dead zone grows to an area the size of New Jersey. A U.N. report in 2006 showed a 34 percent jump in the number of dead zones over 2 years—now 200 worldwide. Today, red tides (harmful algae blooms) line some coastlines of entire nations nearly without break.
62 In what is still the most comprehensive study of diet and life-style ever made, The China Study found that the consumption of relatively small amounts of animal protein is linked to chronic disease. The findings from this grand epidemiological study are especially compelling because they allowed meaningful comparisons between populations with similar genetic backgrounds yet with nonhomogeneous diets. All together, The China Study provides the ultimate vegan vindication.
63 Fifty-two billion pounds of inedible byproduct (bones, fats, unusable hides, and cartilage) from America’s meat and poultry slaughterhouses is each year transmogrified by “renderers” into saleable adhesives, lubricants, chemicals, cosmetics, and processed-food ingredients—a grisly but profitable side business of the meat trade. This amount, however, does not include the 6 billion pounds of deadstock that accumulate on U.S. feedlots, which must also be dealt with. Unfortunately, only half of it is rendered and therefore processed safely. If buried, deadstock attracts vermin, leaches nitrogen and methane into the environment, and poisons the groundwater. If burned—usually the case when mortalities are catastrophic due to weather events or disease outbreaks—pyres will poison the air with dioxin. If composted, the process is often poorly managed, failing to adequately promote full decomposition.
64 Want the omega-3s in fish but would rather skip the mercury, PCBs, and dioxins? Well, push aside that fish altogether, and rediscover flax. Two tablespoons of ground flax daily give you all of the essential fatty acids you need with several bonuses: Flax seeds contain iron, zinc, and high-quality protein, plus almost all of the vitamins. They’re loaded with soluble fiber and are the best source anywhere for phytonutrient lignans. They ease symptoms of diabetes and even promote healthy brain growth in utero and in infancy.
65 By some assessments, the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which originated in Asia and is still spreading around the world, has the potential to disrupt life on planet Earth second only to global nuclear war. Others predict that if the strain mutates, perhaps just slightly, a bird-flu pandemic could kill more than 140 million people and put a halt to [U.S.]$4.4 trillion in world economic activity.
66 The meat industry doesn’t treat the causes of its problems, only the symptoms. When it imprisons massive numbers of animals in cramped stress-inducing cages, it provides the perfect breeding ground for deadly bacteria, which later infect the meat. Technologies to kill meat pathogens are now very big business. We have acidic-solution carcass misting, alkaline-solution sprays, steam/va-cuum technology, high-temperature carcass washes, steam pasteurization, and chlorine applications, etc., ad nauseum. Some bug-fighting methods, such as food irradiation and sprays of antidotal viruses and probiotic bacteria, pose risks in themselves. And in the end, the meat still isn’t safe.
67 Most of America’s cows are not “Happy Cows,” despite what the California Milk Advisory Board might say in its nationally televised commercials. Many cows in the Western state spend their lives negotiating bogs of their own feces. Elsewhere, they may be tethered at stanchions. All are inseminated annually to keep them lactating, and many regularly suffer painful udder infections. Thanks to calcium depletion and foot infections, slaughter occurs after only three or four lactation periods. The CMAB is a government agency and so is not subject to false-advertising laws.
68 To choose industrial meat is to support a system that long ago put family farmers out of business. Essentially, it is only the big players—those who bought into factory systems—who are feeding America. Yes, we do have lower prices at the retail level. But ultimately, what is the real cost of cheap meat? You need to factor in the $20 billion per year in government subsidies to commodity farmers, higher medical costs attributable to excessive diets, antibiotic resistance in emerging bacterial strains, a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the inordinate amount of oil needed for petrochemical fertilizers, dwindling aquifers, zoonotic diseases, and the list goes on.
69 To bring 10 billion animals each year to the dinner tables of today’s everyday Americans requires a well-oiled machine of streamlined efficiency. Sentient life is conveyed and processed using the batch method—tight confinement of the “raw ingredients,” by the tens of thousands and even millions. But things can, and do, suddenly go horribly wrong and more often than one would imagine—think hurricane, snowstorm, flood, tornado, heatwave, mechanical breakdown, electrical failure, disease, or fire. At press time, for example, within a span of five weeks, fires burned to death 11,000 pigs in Littleton, Illinois, and 180,000 chickens in the Seattle area. News accounts were typically short and local, concentrating on the economic losses to the farmers.
70 Researchers in 2008 found that fresh produce surprisingly causes over 29 percent of all food borne illness. But before you blame the veggies, it’s important to know that the contaminating pathogens are almost invariably those that hitch a ride on fecal matter. And we know plants don’t defecate. So what’s the story? It all gets down to one simple fact. Feedlot operators cannot afford to properly treat all the waste that their mammoth-size facilities generate, so they often divert the muck to the nearest waterway. Down stream, salad and produce processors use the water as a rinse.
71 Today’s turkeys are unable to copulate on their own, thanks to selectively bred, freakishly huge breasts in the “toms.” The birds must be artificially inseminated. The job is nearly as dehumanizing for the workers—who must work rapidly for long hours and low wages—as it is deplorable for the tortured breeder birds, who are essentially raped every week for 12 to 16 months until they are most unceremoniously sent to slaughter.
72 In most large commercial chicken slaughter plants the inverted heads of doomed birds are first plunged into an electrified brine bath. The current is set at voltages just high enough to immobilize the birds and to promote bleedout without hemorrhage. It serves to minimize inconvenient flailing that would otherwise interfere with the slaughter process. The birds are not only sentient during slaughter but must also suffer the excruciating shock, sometimes twice.
73 Grass-fed beef is more eco-friendly than corn-fed, but supplies of it could never sustainably meet current consumer demand. Several guides are available to help seafood consumers “eat with a conscience.” But the species that are recommended would quickly run out if everyone ate them. Legally, “free-range” and “cage-free” designations are dubious to downright meaningless. At least one humane certification program was officially debunked. “Organic” has gone strangely industrial and is rightly tagged “ethically challenged.” Ultimately, to “eat green” and to “be kind,” one needs to go vegan.
74 New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and its Department of Health have posted an Internet factsheet called “Eating Sport Fish.” The advice speaks for itself: No one should eat more than one meal of fish per week from any of the state’s fresh waters; chemical contaminants may be a problem; trim all fat; don’t consume cooking liquids. On the other hand, if you still want to enjoy the “fun” of sport fishing but don’t want to poison yourself, the factsheet recommends catch and release. But don’t tear out the hook—cut its leader, goes the “compassionate” advice. Also, avoid playing fish to exhaustion. Nearly every state in the union has a mercury-in-rivers advisory.
75 Okinawa has the healthiest and longest-lived people in the world, boasting the highest percentage of people who live to be a hundred years old. The super-seniors who inhabit the island tend to retain their mental keenness, and few need to live in nursing homes. Not surprisingly, they eat very little food of animal origin, according to a 25-year study on the island. Okinawan genes could take some of the credit, although today’s old folks are projected to outlive their children who have adopted Western eating habits.
76 No discernible difference exists between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to public policy on issues of animal-based foods—certainly not in the area of trade. The Obama and Bush administrations differ only on tactics in their mutual dedication to forcing trading partners to open markets to U.S. meat. U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk told the U.S. Meat Export Federation in mid-2009 that he was using every legal tool at his disposal to keep pork markets open during the swine flu outbreak and to reverse or mitigate trade bans because of mad cow disease and hormones in beef.
77 The population explosion should not be thought of exclusively in terms of people—not when one considers the ecological footprint represented by the world’s 3.2 billion cattle, sheep, and goats across the globe. About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangeland—and 73 percent of rangeland in dry areas—have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction, and erosion caused by livestock.
78 It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of U.S. dairy cows are infected with mastitis at any one time. The painful udder infection is considered a man-made affliction. Cows get it by improper care, poor milking procedures, overmilking, and malfunctioning milking machines. The genetically engineered growth hormone Bovine Somatotropin (bST), which is widely used by producers to boost milk yields, is plainly linked to mastitis.
79 To satisfy people’s ravenous appetite for frogs’ legs, a billion frogs are taken from the wild each year, according to a study in 2009. The collective pillage is helping to make amphibians as a whole the most threatened animal group on Earth.
80 In the early twentieth century man learned how to extract nitrogen (fertilizer) from the air, cheaply and in large quantities. This one discovery has actually resulted in allowing 2 billion more people to inhabit planet Earth and has given humans the luxury of feeding crops to livestock. Yet what gives the world abundance has, by way of nutrient runoff and acid rain, poisoned waterways from the Chinese countryside to the Ohio Valley. (Excess nitrogen promotes algae growth, robbing the water of oxygen.) In North America and Europe, lakes and rivers contain 20 times the nitrogen they did before the Industrial Revolution.
81 Worldwide meat consumption quadrupled over the last half century. The average American consumes about 110 grams of protein per day—about twice what the government recommends. Over two-thirds of this amount comes from animal-based sources. Most would be better off consuming 30 grams of protein per day and all of it derived from plant sources.
82 When meat, fish, or poultry is barbecued, fat drips over the open flames and sends up plumes of carcinogenic smoke, coating the food. Other unhealthful chemicals are created just by extended cooking periods. So, chemists advise that grill times be kept short. Separately, even environmentalists are saying that restaurant grilling is an important source of soot and smog. But you still need to cook your meat thoroughly. How else are you going to kill all those nasty bacteria?
83 Forests cleanse the environment, regulate climate, and provide habitat for wildlife and crop pollinators. Many modern medicines derive from forests. Our very survival on planet Earth depends upon them. According to a 390-page U.N. report in 2006, the expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation. Today, nearly all of it is taking place in the Amazon, thanks to grazing and the production of feedcrops. Worldwide, livestock production uses 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet.
84 Worldwide, 60 billion animals are processed for human consumption each year, not counting fish. Most are transported at least once in their lives. Filthy, crowded, cramped, noisy, and terrifying conditions over extended periods are the norm. Stress and crowding facilitate the transmission of disease. Some animals are forced on numerous trips as owners respond to favorable prices. Cull animals, by definition, are spent; their transport experiences are particularly cruel. International commerce in live animals—with shipping distances often over a thousand miles—is routine. Laws are lax, nonexistent, and otherwise flouted. In the U.S., truckers must feed and water mammals after 36 hours. No such “protections” apply to poultry.
85 Clog up your arteries on a diet loaded with saturated animal fat and cholesterol year after year and you risk having a heart attack or stroke. You can opt to avert these afflictions with an expensive, though now routine, operation known as angioplasty. Performed with a balloon-tipped catheter, it works to flatten plaque against artery walls, thus opening up passageways for blood to flow. A whole-foods vegan diet, along with regular exercise and 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed every day, can have the same effect.
86 More than half of the nation’s seafood companies do not follow federal food-safety guidelines. Government inspectors visit processors only once per year to oversee essentially voluntary measures and to view company paperwork using the honor system. Three-quarters of all fish consumed in the U.S. is imported, representing 4 billion pounds, but less than two percent of it is government inspected.
87 U.N. Environment Programme executive director Klaus Toepfer said in 2003, “The clock is standing at one minute to midnight for the great apes, animals that share more than 96 percent of their DNA with humans. If we lose any great ape species we will be destroying a bridge to our own origins, and with it part of our own humanity.” Humans stand behind all reasons for the die-off, including one of the most important: poaching for meat.
88 Just as smokestack emissions result in acid rain, toxic fumes from decomposing livestock waste in open-air lagoons on factory farms become poisonous to fish when returned to waterways via rainfall. The errant nutrients (ammonia, primarily) also ravage terrestrial ecosystems. Since Earth’s plant species evolved to efficiently use scarce amounts of such nutrients, today’s gluts often kill them. Fallout can degrade environments as far away as 300 miles.
89 Handling livestock these days is risky business, not the least because humans are increasingly contracting diseases from the animals—swine and bird flu, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Nipah virus, and SARS are a few examples. “Exotic” and often endangered animal cuisine could provide the catalyst for a global pandemic. In China, wet markets display caged and invariably sickly creatures, such as cobras, civet cats, and anteaters, for consumers who want that “taste of the wild.” In Africa, the bushmeat trade is blamed for the spread of Ebola and AIDS.
90 Even if meat eaters are spared the big killers that their lifestyle is associated with (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer), their diet may still be robbing them of everyday good health. A standard American diet will often lead to nagging conditions and ailments. A whole-foods, high-fiber vegan diet, full of grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, is just the ticket to reduce arthritis pain, ease irritable-bowel disorders, mitigate common back pain, relieve cold and allergy symptoms, and lower risk for gallstones, kidney stones, and heartburn. Perhaps best of all, the vegan life is one free of constipation!
91 When food-safety inspectors in New York City make their rounds, they often come upon merchants selling just about anything: the meat of armadillos, iquanas, primates, turtles, frogs, and rats. Some of the meat comes from endangered animals. Other cuts, if not intrinsically illegal, fail to derive from licensed inspected facilities. The sellers of such contraband (most is imported) tend to be ignorant of U.S. laws, sometimes conveniently so. They don’t seem to comprehend the dangers to which they expose their customers and even the city as they raise the risk for disease and bacterial outbreak. Over one recent 21-month period, a single inspector shuttered 138 city stores.
92 It is estimated that 30 percent of the world’s fish catch is non-target species, or “bycatch.” Fishers—typically in the cruelest most expedient ways—separate out the discards, only to dump them overboard, dead and mutilated. Bycatch from driftnetting is estimated at 85 percent of catch. Despite a U.N. moratorium, Italy, France, and Morocco continue this hugely destructive practice. Shrimp fishing alone is responsible for over 27 percent of the world’s bycatch, despite producing less than 2 percent of global seafood.
93 In nature, pigs avoid filth and will trek and root over 9 miles during a 24-hour period. Yet factory internment brings a breeding sow cold, strawless floors, noxious filth, deafening noise, and immobilizing space barely larger than her own body. She will be pinned in place to expose her teats to her piglets. This highly intelligent creature will be driven insane as she endures repeated pregnancies via artificial insemination. When her productive capacity eventually wanes, her misery will end with a blade to the throat.
94 There are hundreds of chemicals and veterinary drugs used on today’s feedlots. These vaccines, parasiticides, hormones, insecticides, feed medications, and antimicrobials are making their way into our creeks, rivers, and lakes via the feces and urine excreted by the animals. The substances act as endocrine disrupters in wild species down stream. One study showed female fish acquiring male traits and male fish acquiring female traits. Other studies have similarly found disturbing anomalies.
95 Ninety-nine percent of the world’s water comprises salty seas or is locked up in glacial icecaps. The 1 percent left—no more—is suitable for human consumption. Yet the non-renewable freshwater reserves found in aquifers across the globe are being mined of trillions of gallons of water per year to support the worldwide meat culture. One of the greatest aquifers anywhere, the Ogallala, sits beneath America’s High Plains states and is essentially being drained to oblivion in order to supply an infrastructure of feedlots and industrial slaughterhouses. Scientists say this natural wonder will be diminished by 80 percent by 2020.
96 A 25-percent decline in heart disease in Poland in the early 1990s coincided with the country’s transformation to a market economy, which ended government subsidies to meat. A switch primarily to vegetable fats and the increased importation of fruit were also seen as factors in the decline, according to a report made by a team of multinational researchers. The authors of the report noted that the decline was “apparently without precedent in peacetime.”
97 To produce foie gras, male ducks are force-fed a stomach-gorging cup of corn pellets three times a day with a 15-inch feeder tube. This torturous process goes on for 28 days until the ducks’ livers, from which the pâté is made, miasmatically bloat to 10 times normal size. Mortalities are high due to disease, intense stress, and burst stomachs. Activist undercover video has shown rows and rows of birds panting incessantly for air in the days just leading up to slaughter. So cruel are all these practices that foie gras production is now outlawed in at least a dozen countries.
98 Every year, 24,000 fishers die on the job, making fishing the most dangerous occupation in the world, according to the FAO/UN. Meatpacking has the highest serious injury rate by far of any occupation. Repetitive stress disorders and knife cuts are rampant in meat plants. Poultry processing workers earn wages that are below the poverty level. Full-time contract poultry growers clear incomes of only about $21,000 annually.
99 Agriculture science tirelessly works to eke out every last bit of commodity wealth from farmed animals via genetic selection. Wild jungle fowl lay 2 dozen eggs per year; their maligned descendants produce an egg nearly every day. Wild sows give birth to 5 piglets; factory-borne litters yield 12 young. A century ago a steer took 4 to 5 years to grow to market weight; today the process takes only 14 months. Just 50 years ago cows gave 645 gallons of milk per year; dairies today take over three times this amount from the animals.
100 A chorus of research shows that eating vegetables keeps the brain young. A 6-year study in 2006 in Chicago tested 2,000 seniors, their mental acumen paired off with vegetable intake. Subjects who ate more than two servings of vegetables per day appeared about five years younger by certain indicators than those who ate few or no vegetables. Green leafies (spinach, kale, and collards) appeared most beneficial.
101 When you fork over that $2.99 for that 7.10 ounces of Banquet Chicken Fingers Meal, it’s really quite a bargain, or so you may think. But such purchases—collectively trillions of them across the globe—are subject to a steep ecological price. Future generations will be the ones remitting its payments with global warming, aquifer depletion, topsoil erosion, deforestation and lost ecosystem services. Isn’t it time to start eating lower on the food chain? Get Hip. Go Veg!
Copyright 2009 © Pamela Rice.
If you're thinking about running this document out from your jet or laser printer right now, consider the following: You may obtain beautifully printed, bound, and illustrated copies for less than what it would cost you to photocopy. Order directly from the VivaVegie Society!
Click HERE for order information.
PLEASE NOTE: Just keeping up with developments in the meat and dairy industry involves many hundreds of hours of ongoing research. It's important that the 101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian remain fresh. When you order multiple copies of 101 Reasons... you support the continuation of that process.
The VivaVegie Society is tax-exempt, non-profit, 501(c)3 charitable organization based in New York City. It is the city's premier vegetarian advocacy organization. Its primary goal is to reach pedestrian traffic to promote the vegetarian way of life and to educate about the detriments of our society's meat centered diet. VivaVegie Society advocates gather in populated areas around New York City setting up a table to distribute educational material about vegetarianism, educational material which always includes the 101 Reasons... For more information, go to: our VivaVegie "pro-active page"
101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian is dedicated to my husband, Alan Rice, who maintained a constant flow of invaluable reference material streaming my way--without which this "mighty convincer" would have been a lot less convincing.
Your comments are of interest to us.
P.O. Box 1447
New York, NY 10276