I am blessed with two children who care very deeply about animal welfare and the environment. My daughter became a vegetarian at age 12 (ovo-pescatarian) and my son has recently followed suit. The family decided that we would all try to give up meat and fast for two days out of seven. We don’t do a bread and water fast, on our fast days we mostly eat soup and fruits and vegetables. We usually attempt to eat one half of our usual intake.
I struggle with this because I like the taste of meat, and I sure do like my sweets. However, there are many valid reasons for becoming a vegetarian.
- Reduce your risk of the #1 killer, heart disease. I can attest to this one. Last summer I had to have a heart valve replacement. It was tough. I’m still struggling to recover from it.
- Cancer Prevention – Regularly eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is strongly associated with a risk of some cancers, particularly colorectal.
- Reduce excess weight and keep it off. More than 2/3 of the general public is considered obese. Studies have shown that the BMI levels are lower in people who eschew meat.
- A 12 year Oxford study found that vegetarians outlive meat eaters by an average of 12 years.
- Avoid toxic food contaminants. Flesh foods can harbor contaminants such as hormones, herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics. These are all fat-soluble, so they concentrate in the fatty flesh of the animals.
- Reduce global warming. The United Nations said in its 2006 report that livestock generate more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Sometimes it is euphemistically referred to as “bovine flatulence. Lovely. Therefore, the single most important step an individual can take to reduce global warming is to adopt a vegetarian diet.
- It makes economic sense. A vegetarian diet is not only good for one’s personal health; it’s also good for the nation’s economy. Five diet-related chronic diseases cost the U.S. economy a staggering $1 trillion each year! This is an estimate of direct medical costs and the indirect impact of productivity losses due to illness and premature death associated with chronic heart disease and stroke, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. You know the old saying “pay me now or pay me later. Well, we need to eat healthier now or we will pay the price later.
- Help end world hunger. By growing healthy food and giving it directly to the world’s hungry, thus eliminating the animal middle man, we could make a huge impact toward decreasing world hunger.
- Have compassion for animals. Farm animals are treated as a commodity, pure and simple. It’s a harsh reality.
- Open your eyes and your palate to the boundless world of vegetarianism. Discover the array of fruits and vegetables available for our dining pleasure.
We have taken our fasting to another level. We have an old peanut butter jar on the kitchen table and every time we restrict our eating, whether it be for health or humanitarian reasons, we put the money we would have spent in an empty peanut butter jar. At the end of Lent, we are going to give this money to a church to share with the needy.
It’s not going to be easy, but I guess nothing worthwhile is. Wish us luck.
“Live simply so that others may simply live.”