A vegetarian is a person who decides to avoid the consumption of meat products. There are a number of reasons attributed to this choice of lifestyle, among them being medical, moral, or as a matter of personal taste. Vegetarianism is widely considered to be unmanly. About ten percent of the U.S. population proclaims themselves to be vegetarian. A higher percentage of people who claim to be vegetarian are women. Until recent times, the vegetarian diet has been referred to the Pythagorean diet, named for the Greek cult famous for, among other things, making a claim of piety by denying themselves pleasure.
There are several types of vegetarian. A vegetarian can fall into one or more of these categories:
- Vegetarian - The typical vegetarian avoids meat products of any kind. Often, when you take one out to eat, you have to drive another 15 minutes or so to find a place that serves something she likes.
- Vegan - Several steps beyond your average vegetarian, they refuse to eat animal by-products (dairy). Thus, a vegan shuns milk, eggs, cheese, other dairy products, and other products that contain dairy (such as milk chocolate).
- Fish Two-face - Like your typical vegetarian, they avoid meat products. However, they extend an exception to fish. It's complicated, I'm sure.
- Moral vegetarian - These would be the ones that attempt to sell you their vegetarian lifestyle. They think their impractical diet is good enough for everybody. They will go well out of their way to attempt to make their inconvenient lifestyle your own.
Common vegetarian claims (and rebuttals)Edit
Vegetarians make numerous claims to justify or sell their lifestyle. The following list contains a few of the claims that they make, and answers to them. Here is the format:
- The claim. - The rebuttal.
This list may not be exhaustive, as vegetarian arguments are constantly changing. Here is the list:
- It takes a lot of grain (often 16 pounds) to produce a pound of beef. - According to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology's 1999 Animal Agriculture and Global Food Supply Report, only about 2.6 pounds of grain is used to produce a pound of beef in developed countries, while 0.3 pounds of grain is used to produce a pound of beef in developing countries. The grain consumed by livestock includes forage from marginal lands and byproducts from food processors that are only suitable for consumption by ruminary creatures.
- The vegetarian diet is more vitamin rich. - The vegetarian diet is often deficient in vitamin D, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and iodine, a deficiency in the latter two being known to cause irreversable neurological damage and mental retardation, respectively. There is another list below with more information.
- Vegetarians have a higher average IQ than meat eaters. - This claim is based on the results of a study conducted in Britain, which likely didn't control for the fact that persons with lower IQ are less likely to consider any kind of alternative diet. Still, the study placed the average IQ for vegetarians as being higher by only 5 points, which is the standard deviation for IQ exams. Considering the effects of deficiency in certain vitamins, any conceitedness in one's intellect by association may be short-lived.
- Meat is overconsumed. - A study by the MRCA shows that Americans eat an average of 2.2 servings from the meat food group per day, within the recommended 2-3 servings per day.
- The land used to raise cattle can produce more food if used to farm fruits and vegetables. - Not every plot of land is equally fertile. The nutrients present in the soil is often what dictates what a farmer does with a plot of land. Livestock is typically raised on marginal land.
- Eating meat can lead to impotence. - Only 10 percent of the population are vegetarians. The rest of us have figured something out.
- Eating meat causes suffering. - While the idea of being slaughtered sounds subjectively unpleasant, natural deaths (either through predation or old age) are by far more excruciating. Furthermore, the least harm principle suggests that humans should eat large herbivores.
- Vegetarianism can make you smarter. - There are a number of vitamin deficiencies in the traditional vegetarian diet that a vegetarian would have to go well out of their way to locate in non-meat sources. Among these are vitamin B12 and iodine, a deficiency of which can seriously impact the health of one's brain.
- That humans aren't designed for the consumption of meat. - This argument is refuted by the simple observation that humans are able to consume meat products with no ill effects. Furthermore, the presence of features shared with carnivores, such as canine teeth, refutes this vegetarian claim.
Vitamin deficiencies in the vegetarian dietEdit
While it is was mentioned above, the vitamin deficiencies of the vegetarian diet can be further explored.
- Protein - While the vegetarian diet is often low in protein, vegetarians often obtain protein by "combining proteins" from plant sources of protein.
- Vitamin D - Direct sunlight on the skin can cause the human body to synthesize vitamin D, so vegetarians with little exposure to sunlight are at greater risk for a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D promotes bone strength, and may help maintain a healthy immune system, and help regulate cell growth and differentiation.
- Iron - The vegetarian diet has fewer sources of iron, which places vegetarians at risk of anemia and iron deficiency.
- Zinc - Phytates in whole grains and fiber may interfere with zinc absorption, which could necessitate an increase in zinc consumption to avoid a deficiency.
- Omega-3 fatty acids - Vegetarians have relatively few reliable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. While there is no consensus on the role of omega-3 fatty acids, they may reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, rheumatism, ADD, and dementia.
- Vitamin B12 - Unless fortified, plant foods do not contain reliable amounts of vitamin B12. Even if a vegetarian were to compromise with eggs and milk, they are still at risk of being vitamin B12 deficient. A deficiency in this vitamin is associated with nerve degeneration, megaloblastic anemia, and irreversable neurological damage.
- Iodine - Vegetarians are at risk of iodine deficiency, which is associated with goiter, cretinism, and developmental delays.