Vegetarianism is the fastest growing trend in the developed world. Here are 21 reasons why more and more people are giving up eating animals.
1. Avoiding meat is one of the best and simplest ways to cut down your fat consumption. Modern farm animals are deliberately fattened up to increase profits. Eating fatty meat increases your chances of having a heart attack or developing cancer.
2. Every minute of every working day thousands of animals are killed in slaughterhouses. Many animals are bled to death. Pain and misery are commonplace. In America alone 500,000 animals are killed for meat every hour.
3. There are millions of cases of food poisoning recorded every year. The vast majority of all those cases are caused by eating meat.
4. Meat contains absolutely nothing - no proteins, vitamins or minerals - that the human body cannot obtain perfectly happily from a vegetarian diet.
5. African countries - where millions are starving to death - export grain to the developed world so that animals can be fattened for the dining tables of the affluent nations. This problem is getting worse now that agricultural land is widely used for growing crops to be used as a petrol and diesel substitute.
6. Food sold as `meat' can include the tail, head, feet, rectum and spinal cord of an animal.
7. A sausage may contain ground up intestines. How can anyone be sure that the intestines are empty when they are ground up? Who wants to eat the content of a pig's intestines?
8. If we ate the plants we grow -instead of feeding them to animals - the world's food shortage would disappear virtually overnight. One hundred acres of land will produce enough beef for 20 people but enough wheat to feed 240 people.
9. Every day tens of millions of one-day-old male chicks are killed because they will not be able to lay eggs. There are no rules about how this mass slaughter takes place. Some are crushed or suffocated to death. Many are used for fertiliser or fed to other animals.
10. Animals who die for your dinner table die alone, in terror, in sadness and in pain. The killing is merciless and inhumane.
11. It's much easier to become - and stay - healthily slim if you are vegetarian.
12. Half the rainforests in the world have been destroyed to clear ground to graze cattle to make beefburgers. The burning of the forests contributes 20% of all greenhouse gases. Roughly 1,000 species a year become extinct because of the destruction of the rain forests. Around 300 million acres of American forest have been cleared to grow crops to feed cattle so that people can eat meat.
13. Every year 440 million tons of grain are fed to livestock - so that the world's rich can eat meat. At the same time 500 million people in poor countries starve to death. Every six seconds someone in the world starves to death because people in the west are eating meat. Approximately 60 million people a year die of starvation. All those lives could be saved if the starving people were allowed to eat just some of the grain used to fatten cattle and other farm animals. If Americans ate 10% less meat world starvation would be a memory.
14. The world's fresh water shortage is being made worse by animal farming. And meat producers are the biggest polluters of water. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. If the meat industry in America wasn't supported by the taxpayer paying a large proportion of its water costs then hamburger meat would cost $35 a pound.
15. If you eat meat you are consuming hormones that were fed to the animals. No one knows what effect those hormones will have on your health. In some parts of the world as many as one in four hamburgers contain growth hormones that were originally given to cattle.
16. The following diseases are commoner among meat eaters: anaemia, appendicitis, arthritis, breast cancer, cancer of the colon, cancer of the prostate, constipation, diabetes, gallstones, gout, high blood pressure, indigestion, obesity, piles, strokes and varicose veins. Lifelong vegetarians visit hospital 22% less often than meat eaters - and for shorter stays. Vegetarians have a 20% lower blood cholesterol levels than meat eaters - and this reduces heart attack and cancer risks considerably.
17. Some farmers use tranquillisers to keep animals calm. Others routinely use antibiotics to stave off infection. When you eat meat you are eating those drugs. In America 55% of all antibiotics are fed to animals and the percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin went up from 13% in 1960 to 91% in 1988.
18. In a lifetime the average meat eater will consume 36 pigs, 36 sheep and 750 chickens and turkeys.
19. Animals suffer from pain and fear just as much as you do. Most spend their last hours locked in a truck, packed into a cage with hundreds of other terrified animals and then cruelly pushed into a blood soaked death chamber.
20. Animals which are a year old are often far more rational - and capable of logical thought - than six-week-old babies. Pigs and sheep are far more intelligent than small children.
21. Vegetarians are fitter than meat eaters. Many of the world's most successful athletes are vegetarian.
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2007
Adapted from the book Food for Thought by Vernon Coleman. Food for Thought is available from the bookshop on this website and from all good bookshops everywhere.