Should you have beef with people who eat meat?
The Vegetarian Says by Michelle Politiski
Let me start by saying that meat is not murder. Equating people who eat meat to murderers does not help anyone understand each other better, and the decision to either eat meat or avoid it is a dietary—and sometimes social, political or economic—choice that everyone should be entitled to.
Nonetheless, when people think of vegetarians, they often think of hemp-wearing hippies who never shower and sleep in the back of Volkswagen vans, dreaming about a world made of rainbows and sunshine where no animals ever die. But the reality is that vegetarians and vegans have many different lifestyles and motivations, and all of them are valid. I, personally, am vegetarian for a number of reasons, and I’d like to explain a few of them.
First of all, being a vegetarian—at least from my point of view—is just as easy as eating meat. Many people shun vegetarianism or veganism because they seem too difficult, but it’s 2017, and almost any restaurant you walk into has vegetarian or vegan options. And no, they’re not all salad.
If you’re a fan of the taste and texture of meat, you still have plenty of plant-based options. Imitation meat comes in all shapes and sizes, and often packs an even bigger protein punch than run-of-the-mill chicken or beef. Options include tofu (which can range anywhere from super-soft to super-firm), seitan and tempeh, a tougher soy product with tons of fiber that makes vegan bacon possible. Just have a look inside Trader Joe’s—you’ll see veggie chicken, Sriracha tofu, meatless sausages and even soy chorizo.
If you need a more ethically based reason to omit meat from your diet, consider environmental factors that go into, and come out of, meat production. According to Scientific American, the meat industry alone is responsible for up to 30 percent of Americans’ fresh water usage. It takes about 1,799 gallons of water to raise one pound of beef—compared to the 216 gallons it takes to grow a pound of soybeans. That spare 1,583 gallons could be used to water crops, aid droughted areas and help solve the global freshwater crisis that has left 783 million people without access to clean water. [methane gas emissions and livestock space]
Aside from environmental factors, another serious issue to consider is the methods that we use to raise and harvest livestock. Out of all livestock, beef cattle are perhaps the most mistreated on factory farms. According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), beef cattle between the ages of six months to one year are “sent to live their last few months in crowded feedlots with hundreds or thousands of others […and] must stand in mud, ice, and their own waste.”
Whether or not you choose to include meat in your diet, it is important to consider the consequences of either course of action and to respect the choices of others. But it is also important to realize the unsustainability of eating meat as heavily as most Americans do. Even Albert Einstein agreed that “nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
The Meat-Eater Says by Atharva Patil
Meat tastes good. But its merits go much further than taste alone. It is a prime example of how far we as humans have come in the evolutionary scale. No pun intended.
Eating meat is what defines us as humans in the first place. It’s in our blood. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, meat provides a much more calorie-rich alternative compared to plant-based products. We are equipped with sharp incisors for tearing through tendons and muscle. If we really were meant to be vegetarians, our digestive systems would be more similar to those of cows, with four stomachs. When humans discovered meat, our stomach size shrank because of meat’s energy efficiency, which then allowed more energy to travel to our brain—increasing its size and our potential for intellectual growth.
Meat also plays an unique role in maintaining structural growth and body health. When exercising or trying to build muscle, it’s important to fuel your body with the key nutrients for muscle regrowth and recovery. This process is easily maintained with a steady consumption of meat. Of course, vegetarians can take supplements, but the most natural source of compounds such as heme iron (only found in animals), zinc and creatine is through meat. That’s why all the bodybuilders you see on TV and in the news are so massive while staying drug-free—it’s the meat. The crucial role meat plays during fat burning as well as muscle growth makes it a no-brainer to include in your diet.
Probably the most pressing reason to include meat in your diet is because it has Vitamin B and amino acids. All B vitamins are found in greater concentration in meats than in plant sources, and vitamin B12 can only be found in animal sources. These vitamins are critical to mental health; deficits can cause impaired senses, anemia and dementia. The high natural supply of amino acids in a portion of meat help our body build protein and contribute to neurotransmitter health as well. According to a study from the University of Graz, vegetarians are two to three times more likely than meat-eaters to suffer from depression, anxiety and eating disorders simply because they have an imbalance of body lipids and vitamins.
Now, I get that eating meat may be a personal choice, for religious or other reasons. And that’s completely OK; it’s important to make your own decisions. But realize that where there is a problem, there is bound to be a solution. If you are concerned about the environment, multiple brands offer free-range poultry and grass-fed beef. Recent evidence also reveals that vegetarians may even kill more animals than meat eaters. A team from Oregon found that tractors, while rapidly expanding fields to make space for more crops, kill thousands of rabbits, mice and other field-dwellers.
At the end of the day, choosing to eat meat has many more benefits than harms. Human beings have been eating meat for thousands of years, and it has become a staple in our lifestyle. Why give it up now?