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About the Author

Jodi Bush
PhD Student (Herts, United Kingdom)

I've had a longstanding interest in human rights, socio-economic development and the environment, and am currently undertaking my PhD in politics at the London School of Economics.

Post

If you do one thing… go vegetarian.

Published 02nd July 2010 - 25 comments - 4055 views -

I have been vegetarian now for 15 years. Almost half my life. And the more I educate myself on the environment, on development, on health and on the treatment of animals, the more I become convinced that if you are going to make one change in your life it should be to give up meat.

Here are my top 10 reasons for being vegetarian:

1) Farming livestock requires clearing large tracts of land - thousands of hectares of rainforest are razed to graze cattle

2) Rearing animals for food absorbs huge quantities of water - between 16,000 and 80,000 litres are required for every 1kg of beef

3) Our bodies are not equipped to digest large amounts of meat - in contrast to carnivores humans have long intensines meaning the meat we eat rots inside us

4) Grain grown to feed animals could be used for human consumption - 100 acres of land will produce enough beef for 20 people but enough wheat to feed 240 people

5) Meat eaters are more prone to a range of health problems - cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, piles, constipation, obesity

6) Livestock cause significant damage to the land - land used to rear cattle is subject to degradation and is often unusable afterwards

7) Mass production of meat leads to poorer quality - the demand for meat has lead to battery farming and animals pumped full of growth hormones

8) We are emptying our oceans - some estimates suggest that there will be no seafood available by 2050

9) Cattle are a major contributor to global warming - a recent UN report estimates that cattle are responsbile for 18% of greehouse gasses

10) It requires the mass slaughter of animals - 500,000 an hour in the U.S. alone


If you do just one thing for the environment, for your health, for development and for the well-being of animals - go vegetarian.




Comments

  • Sylwia Presley on 03rd July 2010:

    Really good list, I became vegetarian this year, but did not think about it in such a comprehensive way. Thank you for pointing it all out:)


  • Bart Knols on 03rd July 2010:

    Hi Jodi. Nice post. It is of course easier if you have a choice - to eat or not to eat meat. For many people around the world it’s simply what they can get. And having meat simply becomes a feast because it is something rare.

    An interesting issue though is the fact that 80% of the world’s population eats insects, but we in the ‘developed’ world don’t. Conversion of green material (plants) by insects to protein is much more efficient. So a perfect alternative source of protein would be to eat insects. But can we overcome the psychological hurdles to do so?

    Well, we eat prawns, frog legs, snails, caviar, and all consider that perfectly normal… Time to add bugs to the list.


  • Lara Smallman on 03rd July 2010:

    Bravo!

    One interesting thing I came across recently: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/feb/15/ask-leo-tofu-bad-for-environment


  • Jodi Bush on 03rd July 2010:

    Thanks everyone…

    Bart - I take your point about choice, and to be honest my post is more aimed at the average person with a social conscience in the developed world. People like myself who are looking for a way to “do something” but aren’t in a position to up sticks and work in a developing country or feel a bit powerless in making a difference. d

    Insects? Hmmmm - not sure I’d eat those either, but can see the argument. grin

    Lara - you can take some credit for my return to complete vegetarianism. You were the final catalyst in me giving up seafood again. After we had a discussion at the Think3 launch I thought enough excuses and gave up that night!


  • Jodi Bush on 03rd July 2010:

    Oh and yes - I’ve heard the arguments about soya before. Not just that it could be bad environmentally, but also not great for your health.


  • Clare Herbert on 03rd July 2010:

    Great post Jodi! I have been toying with the idea of going veggie for a long time, for health reasons as well as environmental ones. I think it’s time to bite the bullet and just go for it. I have heard that Veggies feel much better than meat eaters.

    I’d like to read a bit more on the subject before taking the plunge. If I’m 100% committed to it, it’s unlikely I’ll fall off the wagon. Could you or anyone reading this recommend any good blogs/articles/books? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.


  • Bart Knols on 03rd July 2010:

    There is not just the option for humans to consume insects. It goes much further in that there is a big need for proteinaceous food in the aquaculture industry (fish, prawns, etc.). Considering that insects are much better at converting plant material into protein, this could be another way of depending less on animals.


  • Jodi Bush on 03rd July 2010:

    Clare - I think the only key thing if you do go vegetarian is that you need to maintain a varied diet. If you just eat carbs, milk, sugar you’ll feel rubbish. You need to eat lots of vegies and fruit, get protein from quorn, beans, lentils, cheese, eggs and ensure you have iron and vitamin C. I think I feel a lot healthier - but I also make sure I eat well. Can’t think of a specific blog or book - but there is loads of info on the web. It’s a lot easier now because there are always vegetarian options on the menu, and you also have lots of meat substitutes (sausages, mince, chicken) if you want to make your meal feel more substantial. I think you should do it…:-)

    Bart - it’s a very interesting idea. Not something I’d really thought about. I think you were right in your first comment, that for people in the UK, US, Europe etc it would just be a mental leap to eat bugs!


  • Clare Herbert on 03rd July 2010:

    I think I’m sold, Jodi. Cheers.


  • Jodi Bush on 03rd July 2010:

    Excellent - now I feel like I’ve achieved something! grin Once you’ve been vegetarian for a while you simply don’t miss meat. It just doesn’t appeal to me.


  • Luan Galani on 04th July 2010:

    My hat goes off to you…now I’m convinced of becoming vegetarian. Surely, it will not be an easy fight.


  • Jodi Bush on 04th July 2010:

    Luan - I really do believe that if you are concerned about the environment, development, your health and the welfare of animals (or any of the above) then this is really the single best action you could take. If you are used to eating a lot of meat then it might be tough for a while, but you soon find you get used to it. Meat is just one form of food - there are literally hundreds of others!It’s a good excuse to get creative… grin


  • Iwona Frydryszak on 04th July 2010:

    thanks for inspiration. I started to be a vegetarian when I was teenager and I wasn’t aware how to do it… it was just a fashion or something to be cool wink and i put on weight a lot. now i would like to do it with head and ful awareness.


  • Jodi Bush on 04th July 2010:

    Iwona - yes, I think a lot of people think that if you go vegetarian you’ll automatically become slimmer. If it means you eat mainly fruit, veg and legumes then yes - but there are plenty of fatty vegetarian foods - chips, cheese, pizza, donuts, vege burgers… so you have to still be aware of what you eat. Like I said to Clare, you also have to be careful about eating a varied diet so you get enough of everything your body needs - protein, iron, vitamins… Best of luck!


  • Clare Herbert on 04th July 2010:

    Go Jodi, Go! smile


  • Jodi Bush on 04th July 2010:

    LOL - yes, a few conversions! At least one blog I’ve written has made a small difference. grin


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 05th July 2010:

    Jodi, great to see you’re back!

    I’m not vegetarian, but I don’t eat red meat (cows, pigs, lions and the like). I sin with chicken and seafood. And even that wasn’t easy. Some years ago back home in Vilnius, Lithuania, there was only one cafe where one could get some veggie food. Only one for a city of some 700,000 strong. Now I suppose there are more, but problems still prevail. “Is there meat in the vegetable soup?” “No.” “OK, I’ll have it please.” ten minutes later… “Excuse me, what are these meatballs doing in my soup?” “It’s just a meatball.”

    Old habits are hard to change, and I got the impression that becoming a real vegetarian (not half-baked as me) requires a bit more dedication to food buying and making, and also a bit more imagination. It’s so easy to just grab some half-made burger, five minutes and it’s done. Did you have this problem, Jodi?


  • Jodi Bush on 05th July 2010:

    Giedre - judging from your profile you live in the UK so really there should be no difficulty in switching to vegetarianism. There are so many alternatives available if you’re searching for a substitute - everything from sausages, to chicken burgers to sandwich meat. I think it’s just a matter of broadening your horizons. It definitely makes choosing at a restaurant easier because you know what you can’t have! wink But seriously, there are so many delicious vegetarian meals - hotpots, soups, salads, pasta, frittatas, stir frys, burritos, nachos, casseroles, roast vegetables, vegetable and haloumi skewers… get yourself a cook book! grin


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 05th July 2010:

    Thanks Jodi, of course I’m aware that here in the UK it’s so much easier to become vegetarian, I just wanted to share my experience about it from back home. Now it should be better there, and I’m sure it is.

    Well at least I left cows and pigs alone some 10 years ago. Now it’s time to say goodbye to chicken… smile


  • Jodi Bush on 06th July 2010:

    Giedre - that’s fantastic! And yes, it’s true that in terms of becoming vegetarian we’re lucky to be in a country that makes it easy. I’ve traveled a lot and have experienced exactly what you described. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it. The thing with chicken is people think it’s always the healthy option (low fat, high omega 3) but because of battery farming often the chicken sold in supermarkets is the opposite - as fatty as a burger (the chickens are cooped up so much that they can’t develop muscle) and low omega 3 (the birds are just so unhealthy). Add to that the hormones and it’s hardly a nutritious choice. I wish you the best of luck!


  • Andrea Arzaba on 06th July 2010:

    One question for BART and JODI! Do vegetarians accept eating INSECTS too?!


  • Jodi Bush on 06th July 2010:

    Andrea - A moral quandry! Hmmmm. grin I don’t think my ethical reasons for not eating meat/seafood really apply to insects - though that said you can’t always understand the long-term impact of changing behaviours. If we all ate insects on a mass scale who knows what the impact would be on the eco-system?!?! Anyhow, I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so (never imagined I’d be having a conversation like this!).


  • Bart Knols on 06th July 2010:

    @Jodi - insects for human consumption would not be collected in nature, they would be reared for that purpose. So no environmental issue here…


  • Jodi Bush on 06th July 2010:

    Bart - still you get my point? Sometimes there are unanticipated consequences to our actions. Look at biofuels. Anyhow - we digress.


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