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Rory Housh

ENG 1201

Dr. Cassel

2 August 2020

What is Vegetarianism and why is it the healthiest eating option?

Vegetarianism has been around since the mid-1800s but has grown in popularity

over the past couple decades. I myself have explored the idea of Vegetarianism as I am

a 16-year-old athlete constantly looking for healthy diets. I often find myself looking at

the Vegetarian lifestyle to maintain my health by cutting certain things, like meat or

dairy, out of my diet. As I thought about the world of Vegetarianism more, I started to

realize wonder if Vegetarianism was truly as healthy as it is made out to be. I began to

wonder if by becoming a Vegetarian, or some version of one, would I even get enough

nutrients to live healthily? Vegetarianism can be broken down into many types including

Pollotarian, Pescatarian, Vegan, Flexitarian, and many more. Pescetarian is a diet that

includes fish and, like Pescatarian, Pollotarian includes all poultry but excludes red

meat. These different branches of Vegetarianism allow for those beginning the lifestyle

to start slowly while still getting the nutrients they need. Vegetarianism is a lifestyle that

can positively restore land lost because of farms, reduce obesity around the world,

prevent health conditions from developing, increase longevity, and influence ethical

treatment of animals.

Vegetarianism is an eating habit that was developed around the mid-1800s and

the main source of this diet? Pythagoras. The “father” of Vegetarianism, or the man

responsible for the rise of Vegetarianism, was in fact the father of the Pythagorean

theory. Ethics were the main cause for Vegetarianism around this time period. Though

as Vegetarianism grew and as time went on, it became more about our health than

ethics. Researchers like Butler have found that, our digestive systems closely resemble

those of herbivores and not carnivores. Prehistoric men did eat meat on occasion but

their diets mere mainly plant based. In other words, we were not meant to eat meat as

often as we do, it acted as a sort of treat and was not deemed necessary for survival.

So, vegetarianism is a diet most similar to how we are supposed to eat making it a

better choice rather than eating meat so often.

In terms of Vegetarianism around the world India contains the largest Vegetarian

and vegan population, with 38% of its population on those diets. 13% of Israel’s

population contains Vegetarians and Vegan making it the second largest population

living this lifestyle in the world. In 2015, a survey found that only 4% of Americans ate a

Vegetarian diet, and less than 1% ate

a Vegan diet. This is quite surprising

when put into numbers because it

seems like almost everyone is

Vegetarian or Vegan nowadays. But

Vegetarianism is not advertised or

Fig. 1 A chart comparing the meat
consumption to vegetarian population in each
country (Vegetarianism around the world)

encouraged as often as it seems so not a lot of people truly know about the

Vegetarianism lifestyle.

As humans evolved our meat intake increased and so have our greenhouse gas

emissions. It has been said that greenhouse gas emissions can be cut down even

100% with absolutely no negative impact. In time reduction in meat processing could

help repair the damage global warming has caused in a way shorter time. Not only

would the decrease in meat

consumption cut down greenhouse

gas emissions but also restore nature

to its fullest. Growing food for

Vegetarianism lifestyles requires more

than half the amount of land than

Fig. 2 The chart above shows the carbon footprint of raising livestock. In the U.S., about
vegetarianism diets and meat diets (Carbon Footprint)

92% of land is used to raise livestock,

like cows and pigs, for food. About

260 million acres of U.S. forests and land has been cleared to create land for crops to

feed animals and pastures to raise those animals. This proves that meat consumption is

more harmful towards the environment than plant-based diets like Vegetarianism.

Cutting all meat in all diets may lead to a small economic fall but it can be repaired

quicker than any other economic issue. Despite this, Vegetarianism is the lifestyle that

makes the most sense to repair the damages we have caused. In the end cutting down

on meat consumption is better for, and helps us give back to, the environment.

Vegetarianism has also been proven to help save water as water is required to

process animals. The world is currently experiencing a shortage of freshwater because

of the rising need for water to make food and other products. Statistics say that beef has

an overall water footprint of 4 million gallons per ton produced. But if just one person

becomes Vegetarian or Vegan they could save 220,000 gallons a year. By saving this

much water we can then save money and energy that it takes to pump water. We can

use this money towards things that truly need it. Also saving energy will cut down

carbon emissions and contribute to global warming, which is extremely harmful for the

environment and ourselves. The ability to save thousands of gallons of water a year is

yet another important reason for people to switch to a Vegetarianism lifestyle.

Obesity has become a real issue around the world but mainly in the United

States, and Vegetarianism is the closest we’ve come to a “cure”. A ten-year study was

conducted on over 16,000 people, who at the start were not obese, the study scored the

participants on their eating habits and the results over time. Over the decade 584

people became obese. Those who were on a plant-based diet were way less likely to

become obese, almost 40% less likely. Plant based and Vegetarian diets help reduce

obesity because they have foods that contain more fiber and help keep you fuller for

longer. This helps one eat less snacks and eat less food in general making it a heathier

diet than those containing mainly animal byproducts. Meat contains more fat than fruits

and vegetables, proving a vegetarian diet is the best option in terms of lowering obesity


Ischemic heart disease (IHD), caused by animal

byproducts, is just one of the many dangerous health

conditions that the Vegetarian lifestyle can prevent. IHD

is a condition where the heart arteries re narrowed

Fig. 3 (LIFE EXPECTANCY) reducing blood flow and oxygen to the heart. IHD is the

main cause of heart attacks. In a study about IHD it was found that the consumption of

a Vegetarian diet would lower the risk of developing IHD in the end. Other health

conditions can be prevented as well, Appleby and Key say Vegetarians are often found

to have lower risks for diabetes, eye cataracts and even other diseases that can cause

death like Diverticular disease. Diverticular disease is the formation of diverticula, or

small pouches bulging in the lining of your stomach. The main cause of this disease is

lack of fiber in one's diet, and as stated before a Vegetarian diet would be the best way

to get said fiber.

Similarly, diabetes can be prevented on a Vegetarian diet because

Vegetarianism improves blood sugar. Research has shown that if someone is a

Vegetarian for their entire life they have a 40% less of a chance to develop diabetes.

Most importantly those who adopt a Vegetarians diet, after leading a life of eating meat,

are about 60% less likely to develop diabetes. About 73% of Americans who eat meat

regularly develop diabetes at some point in their life. Those who have diabetes already

can even control their condition on a Vegetarian diet because Vegetarianism also

improves insulin response. To conclude, a Vegetarian diet can help improve present

health conditions, and prevent non-existent conditions from occurring, over time.

Vegetarians have been found to live six to nine years longer than non-

Vegetarians, but it's not because they cut meat out of their diets. Studies have shown

that vegetarians often make better lifestyle choices like not smoking, drinking less

alcohol, and even exercising more. All of these things factor into a longer life

expectancy. MacAskill explains that a Vegetarian diet can improve health and longevity,

but incorporating a healthy lifestyle aside from the diet contributes to those few extra

years as well. That combination of a healthy lifestyle and healthy body proves, yet again

that becoming a Vegetarian is going to be more beneficial in the grand scheme of


One of the most common and important reasons that a Vegetarian diet is often

chosen, is the treatment of animals and how it can be improved through this lifestyle.

On average there are 70 million animals farmed each year and of those 70 million, 50

million are farmed intensively. These animals live short lives that are often spent in

cramped cages and hot conditions with little to no water. This causes the animals to

lack the ability to participate in normal behaviors for their species. This unnatural way of

farming these animals causes many problems; they are often lame, changed to produce

products faster, living with broken bones, and eventually they experience multi-organ

failure, which then leads to death. This means, animals that were once intended to help

provide us with food are now suffering in ways most of us don't realize. Switching to a

Vegetarian diet, or even just cutting out farm animals is just one simple way to save

these animals and discourage the way they are treated.


Factory farmed animals are not the only animals affected in a harmful way free

range animals are often affected, despite what they tell consumers. While free range

farming is considered more humane than factory farming these animals are still given a

short lifetime outside of their natural habitats. These animals are extremely intelligent

and are often depressed while being raised in the wrong conditions. The pastures the

animals are raised in are most often smaller than they need to be. Animals are also

often given medications or harmful chemicals that cause them pain and discomfort.

Eggs from chickens are also included in our diet that are raised in an inhumane

way. Hens who lay the eggs provided to consumers live in small cramped cages in

rooms that are too hot for animals, with little to no water. Hens are forced and have

been modified in the past to produce over 30 times their normal amount of eggs every

day. The calcium that leaves the hens body after laying that many eggs often makes the

bones brittle and more prone to breaking, leading to major discomfort and death. After

18-24 months of laying eggs the industry considers their time used and sends them to


It is important to recognize, the way these hens are killed and prepared for

processing is the most inhumane part of it all. First the hens are taken from the cages

and chained up by their legs, and then hung upside down. The hens, still upside down,

are passed through a bath of electric water meant to stun them before they are killed.

Since the lines move so quickly most of the hens are not actually stunned, which is very

bad for the hen’s sake. Next sharp and quick blades slice the throats of the hens. Once

again, the lines move so quickly, many of the hens do not die before reaching the next

part of the horrifying process. Next up is a tank of scalding water designed to remove

the hen’s feathers. Many of the poultry scientists working at these factories have

reported that when the hens do not bleed to death, they can regain consciousness

before entering the scalding hot water, where they are then boiled alive. After the

feathers have been removed, the head, feet and internal organs are removed, and the

hens are ready to be processed. Hens aren’t the only chickens killed in these horrible

factories but males as well. According to the NAVS about 250,000,000 male chicks are

ground up, or even suffocated after hatching, each year. All things considered

Vegetarianism, or in this case Veganism which excludes all animal byproducts from

one’s diet including eggs, is the only way to prevent these animals from getting treated


Statistics have shown it only takes one person to save 50 animals per year,

therefore it would only take 1 million people to save 50 million animals. 1 million people

may seem like a lot but there are 7.8 billion people in the world, so 0.012% of the

world's population would need to cut out meat to save 50 million cruelly farmed animals.

It has also been proven that the more Vegetarianism is advertised or encouraged the

more people make the switch. This means if Vegetarianism were to be advertised more

than it already is, less animals would be treated harshly or killed.

In contrast to the previous examples many people believe that Vegetarianism is

actually unhealthy or a bad way of living, and one of those reasons is the mental

disorders that can occur. According to the results of a survey taken in Germany,

“Vegetarians displayed elevated prevalence rates for depressive disorders, anxiety


disorders and somatoform disorders” (Johannes et al.). Scientists proved that results

couldn’t be associated with the actual characteristics of the Vegetarians themselves.

Mental health in itself is a very concerning matter making it understandable that people

may be against Vegetarianism as it can negatively impact one’s mind and eventually

take over their life. While mental health can be risked on a diet like a vegetarian one it is

not seen that often, if it is gone about in a healthy and responsible way. So,

Vegetarianism can still be healthy even if there are risks, as the risks are often rare.

Other arguments often made against Vegetarianism are that killing the animals to

satisfy the demand of meat is not actually immoral. Many reasons behind this claim

include the view that. By not eating meat the demand is lower, meaning less animals

exist to be processed, so eating them is better than them not being born at all. The food

chain is a natural part of life. Earth is here to sustain animals and we as humans need

to eat animals to sustain ourselves. It is often said that by declaring eating animals

unethical the person declaring this is being unethical themselves. If there was no longer

a demand for a meat industry, those working in that industry would lose their jobs

creating an even larger issue over time. Some even go further as to argue that most of

Earth’s land is proven to be able to sustain only livestock agriculture instead crops.

There is no other solution. We would be walking head first into poverty with no way out.

Although this may seem true, the only reason most land is able to sustain animals is

because mankind changed it to sustain those animals and not the crops. In the end,

Vegetarianism is a choice, those who chose that lifestyle are the only ones truly affected,

making these arguments slightly invalid and completely incorrect.


Vegetarianism by definition is the practice of not eating meat or fish especially for moral

or health reasons. However, there are exceptions as shown by the different versions of

Vegetarianism. For example, the branch of Vegetarianism called Flexitarian is a diet that is

flexible in terms of eating animal byproducts. On the other hand, a Vegan diet eliminates all

animal byproducts. It is important to recognize different diets within Vegetarianism because it’s

a lifestyle that can be adjusted for all, and each diet demonstrates that. The ability to find what

works with one’s values and beliefs is one of the many reasons Vegetarianism healthier. The

ability to give back to our planet after taking so much from it, is another important part of

Vegetarianism. Not only can we restore the planet, but also our personal health. Furthermore,

Vegetarianism diets have been proven to prevent and eliminate obesity around the world.

Additionally, Vegetarianism has been found to increase life expectancy by years. Most

importantly Vegetarianism can help end animal cruelty. No matter the way the animals are

raised, free-range or not, they are deprived of their natural ways of living. Given these points, it

can be proven that Vegetarianism is the healthiest dietary option overall.

As I began this project, I was not a Vegetarian and did not have any dietary “restrictions”,

my main goal was to find out if I could benefit as an athlete and a growing teen from a

vegetarian diet. I am a tennis player; tennis is quite a taxing sport though it is often seen as a

girly or easy sport. I thought there was no way that a tennis player could be healthy enough to

play while being Vegetarian, I then found out that Venus Williams a world-renowned tennis

player was in fact Vegetarian. This inspired me to find more athletes that lead a Vegetarian

lifestyle. Jermain Defoe a footballer, Hannah Teter a snowboarder, and Nate Diaz a mixed

martial artist, are all examples of elite athletes living a Vegetarian lifestyle. This made me realize

how normal Vegetarianism is becoming in the athletic industry, meaning I could make a decision

based on the research we now have, and feel secure about that decision. So, I have officially been

a vegetarian for 21 days. I have also begun a journey of creating a healthier spirit and mind as

well as body. I am slowly beginning to feel healthy in every possible way. I have this research

project to thank for opening my eyes to animal cruelty and the importance of connecting with

nature and ourselves. In the end, I learned that Vegetarian diets are the best options in terms of

health benefits even for athletes and the impact it has on the environment.

Works Cited

Appleby, Paul N., and Timothy J. Key. “The Long-Term Health of Vegetarians and

Vegans.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 75, no. 3, 2015, pp. 287–293.,


Butler, Stephanie. “Beans and Greens: The History of Vegetarianism.”,

A&E Television Networks, 4 Apr. 2014,


Crowe, Francesca L., et al. “Risk of Hospitalization or Death from Ischemic Heart

Disease among British Vegetarians and Nonvegetarians: Results from the EPIC-

Oxford Cohort Study.” EBSCOhost, Mar. 2013,



“Factory-Farmed Chickens: Their Difficult Lives and Deaths.” Encyclopædia Britannica,

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,


Gallagher, Paul. “Vegetarian-Diet Helps Prevent Obesity, 10-Year Study Shows.”, 19 May 2017,


“How Does Eating Meat Harm the Environment?” PETA, 31 Oct. 2019,



Housh, Rory. “Vegetarianism around the World.” Google, Google, 2020,


Housh, Rory. “Carbon Footprint.” Google, Google, 2020,


“LIFE EXPECTANCY.” Fishy Vegetarian, 2019,


MacAskill, William. “Vegetarians Live Longer, but It's Not Because They Don't Eat

Meat.” Quartz, Quartz, 5 June 2013,


Michalak, Johannes, et al. “Vegetarian Diet and Mental Disorders: Results from a

Representative Community Survey.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition

and Physical Activity, vol. 9, no. 1, 2012, p. 67., doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-67.

Stern, Abby. “Why It Is Unfair to Say That Eating Meat Is Unethical.” The Glen Echo,



“Veganism and Animal Rights: How Your Diet Affects Animals.” North American

Vegetarian Society,