Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vegetarian 2002 Fact Sheet

It’s Healthier
Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat. It’s a fact. Scientific studies show that vegetarians suffer much less from illnesses like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and other common health problems. A major study reported in the British Medical Journal in 1994 found that, of 5000 meat-eaters and 6000 non-meat eaters, vegetarians had 40% less risk of cancer and 30% less risk of heart disease than the meat-eaters and were 20% less likely to die of any cause (Oxford Vegetarian Study).

A US study of 50,000 vegetarians showed a very low rate of cancer (Seventh Day Adventist Study, Massachussets). It has been estimated that by following a low-fat vegetarian diet, the risk of food poisoning is decreased by 80%. More evidence of the benefits of a vegetarian diet is being found each year.

It’s Humane
Billions of animals are killed in slaughterhouses around the world. In the US, some half a million are killed each hour, while in the UK over 600 million are killed each year. A proportional number are killed in Australia. It is nothing more than an undercover massacre. Animals suffer enormously in the process. Quite apart from the terror of being killed, they undergo pain and fear through routine stock mutilations and during transportation to saleyards and abattoirs.

Most animals eaten in Australia today are intensively raised in dark, sunless sheds where they are fed a diet of processed foods. In most cases antibiotics, growth-promotants and hormones are routinely administered. As biological entities, these animals are treated as little more than meat machines. We would be horrified if our pet cat or dog was treated in this way, so why should we subject other animals to such cruelty? The fact that the killing is done by someone else makes it easy to eat meat but, by eating it, we are really condemning the next animal in line. Have you ever really stopped to think about the cruelty we systematically inflict on other species simply by eating them?

It’s Economical
Meat is expensive, both economically and agriculturally. With so many starving people in the world today it is a criminal waste of food to produce it. Meat-animals are fed perfectly good plant food which could have been fed directly to starving people. For instance, it takes 17 kilos of corn, beans, grain, etc, to produce one kilo of beef in feedlot cattle. This is like investing $17.00 in a bank term deposit and withdrawing $1.00 at maturity! It required massive reserves of land to grow the crops which are used as animal feed. About 70% of crops grown in the US are fed to animals and not to humans. Meanwhile, a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world every two seconds. As the world human population grows, so too does the need for the dwindling reserves of arable land on which to grow crops to feed it.

It’s Environmentally Friendly
In Central America, entire forests are felled or burnt to provide land for grazing cattle. Most of these cattle end up as second-quality hamburger meat for the North American junk food market. Being hard-hooved, cattle erode the vulnerable topsoil, while each animal produces over 300 litres of methane (a “greenhouse” gas) per day. Also, the trees which are felled to clear land for cattle ranching are left to rot. The termites which then feed on them produce even more methane than the cattle.

Weight for weight, cattle alone outweigh the entire human population of our planet. A recent Greenpeace report told how the dairy industry of California uses enough water to supply a city of 22 million people. The effluent produced from intensive piggeries, cattle feedlots and broiler units is polluting our river systems. A NSW government newsletter pointed out that the late Homebush abattoirs was the single greatest industrial polluter of Sydney’s coastal waters.

Exploding Some Myths
Understandably, people are a bit apprehensive about changing their diet. Everyone seems to know “someone” who looks as pale as a bleached potato since giving up meat! The truth is that a well-balanced vegetarian diet provides all the protein and nutrients needed for a vigorous and healthy life (American Dietary Association Study). What is seldom pointed out are the millions of conventional eaters who suffer from constipation, malnutrition, gout and a host of other problems and diseases brought on by a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet, combined with the adverse effects of meat.

A study carried out the by University of Surrey in Britain found that vegetarians were better nourished than meat eaters, and much closer to the “ideal” diet recommended by the government’s own health advisers.

Arn't We Designed To Eat Meat?
Not at all. Many people say that we are meat-eaters because we have sharp teeth. This is like judging a book by its cover. Look inside and you will find out what is really going on.

Our digestive system resembles that of the herbivores and the frugivores (fruit-eaters). It consists of a very long intestine allowing slow digestion of nutrients. By contrast, carnivores have a short digestive tract designed so that meat can quickly pass through the body before it putrefies and becomes toxic. To compensate for this rapid transition, carnivores have a stomach acid concentration 10 times greater than that of vegetarian mammals (including humans) to enable them to quickly digest the meat. When humans eat meat it begins to putrefy before leaving the body, often resulting in disorders as diverse as constipation and bowel cancer if eaten persistently over a period of time. Sure, the more fibre eaten with meat, the quicker it passes through the intestines, but why eat meat at all? Only vegetable matter contains fibre and a good vegetarian diet provides all the fibre the body needs without having to add extra”artificially”. If you are serious about lowering your cholesterol intake, a vegetarian diet is the best way to go since only animal products contain cholesterol.

What do I Eat?
Most people imagine vegetarian eating to be meat and two “veg” minus the meat. To a conventional meat-eater this sounds like someone being sold a car with the engine missing! Nothing could be further from the truth. Vegetarian eating is about eating a wide variety offoods prepared in an abundance of different ways.

Being a good vegetarian means being adventurous and open-minded about food. It is not simply about eating a predictable menu day-in, day-out. Many vegetarian staples had their origin in different countries hundreds of years ago … pasta from China (and later Italy), tofu from China, and tempeh from Indonesia. Tofu is bean curd made from soya beans. Tempeh is a sort of nut-flavoured cheese made from fermented soy beans. It is rich in enzymes and easily digested. Both can be bought at health food stores and larger supermarkets. These are not merely substitutes for meat, but nutritious food in themselves which have proved to be an excellent source of protein for centuries.

Where Do I Get My Protein?
Protein is naturally very plentiful. It occurs in every living thing, plant and animal. Apart from fruit and vegetables, good sources of protein include pasta, lentils, rice, potatoes, soy beans, chick peas, nuts, seeds and grains, with or without moderate use of eggs and dairy products.

The amount you need depends on different personal attributes (weight, height, etc) and the daily requirement varies considerably from 20 to 90 grams per day. By eating a variety of foods each day you should easily meet your individual requirements. In fact, the nutritional attitude to protein has changed dramatically in recent years. The old-fashioned notion that “you can never get too much protein” has been proved wrong. Excess protein not used by the body has to be broken down and excreted as waste. In fact, a major culprit in many human degenerative diseases is a protein overdose. For example, calcium loss in osteoporosis has been linked largely to an excess of high-protein foods.

What about Minerals like Iron and Calcium?
A sound vegetarian diet should provide all needed nutrients. The presence of vitamin C with iron in the diet will help iron absorption by up to 30%. It is a myth that you have to eat meat to get sufficient iron - my son shocked his school doctor when giving blood, which he did on a regular basis, in that his iron levels were among the highest in the entire school. Why is that? He put it down to his couple of pieces of wholemeal toast with very liberal amounts of Marmite spread on it. Iron is readily available in breakfast cereals, whole grain products, soy products, legumes and leafy green vegetables. Tiredness is not necessarily caused by iron deficiency. It may also be caused by lack of sleep, depression, stress and poor (usually junk food) eating habits.

Calcium is found in all unprocessed vegetable foods in amounts that are sufficient to meet the needs of both adults and growing children. Whatever the calcium intake, the intestine absorbs sufficient calcium to meet the body’s needs. Good sources of calcium are sesame seeds, tofu, almonds, soy beans, parsley, green vegetables and fortified soy milk. A recent dietary study on 6,500 Chinese found that even those who ate no animal products actually consumed twice the amount of iron as the average North American. In spite of the fact that dairy products were not eaten, osteoporosis was almost unknown.

How Do I Start?
The best place to start going vegetarian is in the kitchen! Buy a cookbook and start preparing. You will soon get used to the types of food that are used and how they are prepared. Also, your taste for vegetarian food will adapt. If you are doubtful about your abilities as a cook you can enrol in cooking classes. Information about these is often available in health food shops and some courses are run at TAFE colleges. The Vegetarian Society has a list of recommended classes.

Giving up meat might seem strange at first, but so does giving up tobacco to the cigarette addict! If you feel that you can’t drop meat straight away, try cutting it down bit by bit. Just increase your use of foods like beans, grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, gluten and some of the many low cholesterol convenience foods (like burgers and sausages) now available at health food stores and supermarkets.

Why Do So Many People Eat Meat?
Meat-eating in the quantity our society eats today really began with the industrial revolution. Better machines led to more efficient agriculture. When a surplus of crops was produced, this was fed to animals and the animals eaten by those who could afford meat. Thus meat became something of a status symbol. Unfortunately the status symbol developed into a habit so that most of us in the wealthier countries think that it is a normal part of our diet. As we approach a new century, it is high time we turned back to the healthier, less wasteful diet of our forebears.

Today the meat and dairy industries promote the myth of their products being necessary through heavy advertising (you only have to count the times they appear on television to see that!). Close behind them are the pharmaceutical companies which provide the hormones, antibiotics and growth promotants to the animal producers. Altogether there are many vested interests in keeping us eating animal products! Unfortunately the only interests that are lost in this expensive advertising jungle are yours. Individual health … and a healthy environment … begins with good eating habits, and a vegetarian lifestyle is the simplest and most effective way to achieve them.

Making the Change

To make any change is not easy, particularly when it involves explanations to friends and family. However, making a change that you know will take an enormous burden off the environmental stresses of the planet, that will improve your health and ultimately save millions of animals from cruelty makes it easy.

Already in the US and Britain there is a massive change towards a meat-free diet. Some half a million people are adopting a vegetarian lifestyle each year in the US while the number of British vegetarians is now 4 million. The trend is catching in Australia and New Zealand where many, mainly young people, are realising that they want a healthy and humane future.

Whether you go vegetarian overnight or over a period of time does not matter. The important thing is to get on the track. Even cutting down on meat consumption will make an enormous difference.

The new millenium is the time to make the change. Let’s make it a goal for the whole planet. Remember … You’re in good company!

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