The Story of the Anti-Burger

By , Ligonier, PA
Have you ever felt so strongly about a certain side in a controversial topic that it eventually consumes your life? Though it may sound rather dramatic, that happened to me. I am a huge advocate of animal rights and feel that they deserve respect and happiness just like people. Therefore I have made a promise to myself that I would no longer consume meat or use products that have been produced through the harming of animals. It's a very rewarding lifestyle choice that has many, many pros in comparison to the very few cons. Research and experiments have been done for years and countless questions have been answered to prove that a vegetarian diet is by far the better choice. I am here to persuade you to make a choice that it beneficial to you, your environment, and your fellow Earth inhibitors.

Before I jump into detail, let me explain a little bit about the term "vegetarian." There are many types of vegetarians, all of different levels of dedication. Level one, which would be the less "dedicated" would be a perscatarian. A perscatarian only eats fish and no other meat. Many people have taken to this diet for the health benefits, or some use it as a gateway into a full vegetarian diet. A level two would be a flexitarian, or a semi-vegetarian. That is someone who love vegetarian food and typically is a vegetarian, but then they will occasionally treat themselves to meat. The third level is most common amongst vegetarians. They are known as lacto-ovo-vegetarians, which means under no circumstances will they eat meat or seafood, but they will consume dairy products, eggs, or any animal product that does not require the animal to be killed. This is the level I have been at for the last eight years. I started when I was eleven and never once faltered to this day. That just shows you how easy this lifestyle can be. The fourth level is most extreme. These people are called vegans. The will not meat, eggs, dairy products, or gelatin. Some vegans even refuse foods such as honey. Many also refrain from wearing animal products, such a wool. (Hackett, Jolinda. "Types of Vegetarians.")

When people think of giving up their precious hamburgers and chicken nuggets, they get panicky and ask "What's in it for me?" Well, numerous things actually. There is the health benefits, moral satisfaction, and a cleaner living space.

It's been proven that the reduction of meat in your diet, along with typical exercise, will in fact lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level, and lessen you're risk of obesity, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease; all which could lead to death. Isoflavones, such as Genisten and Daidzen, are found in soy beans, and they act as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens prohibit tumor growth and decrease your chances of blood clots. They also help avoid bone loss, which could lead to osteoporosis. About three dozen fruit and vegetable plants have been discovered to hold cancer-protective chemicals. Common foods like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, tomatoes, grapes, oats, onions and nuts are just some to name a few. (Craig, Winston. "Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diets.") Nutritional researcher at Cornell University, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, even states that a large majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented by simply adopting a plant-based diet.

Just like any good argument, there has to be two sides. You’re probably wondering, are there any disadvantages of such a diet? Well, of course there are. But they are mild compared to the perks. Obviously, your protein intake will decrease. Protein is used by our bodies to complete activities that grow, maintain and repair our cells. Protein also supplies us with energy and defends us against infections. What people are not typically aware of though, is how available protein is if they really look for it. Prevalent foods such as eggs, spinach, soy products, milk, whole grains, beans, nuts, corn, peas and peanut butter all contain a sufficient amount of protein. Also, many vitamin stores carry protein supplements if someone feels they are beginning to lack protein or just want to boost up. ("Disadvantages of Being a Vegetarian.")("Eating for Life.")

Two more minor disadvantages of a vegetarian diet are difficulties when serving a crowd and a lack of food choices. When preparing food for multiple people, it’s hard to find one meat-less dish that everyone will enjoy, but that is just a minor hassle that can come up even when dealing with all meat-eaters or non-meat-eaters. Lately, though, restaurants have been better with serving dishes that do not contain meat or use meat-substitutes. They usually contain a wide variety of salads too and will prepare dishes without meat upon request. Tofu and other alternatives are sold in grocery centers such as Wal-Mart and Giant Eagle. All health food outlets also carry vegetarian and vegan options.

If you are not convinced to make the switch for yourself, then maybe if you knew about the impact is has on our environment, it could sway your decision. The way the meat industry breeds animals for consumption is actually endangering our planet. It is using huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides, and potentially harmful drugs, while also polluting our atmosphere. Our streams and rivers are contaminated by factory farms’ run-off, which not only can harm the surrounding eco-system, but it can also put humans into peril. Even the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee stated that the hazard of pollution from livestock and poultry farms is a national concern. ("Vegetarian Diets Help Protect the Environment.")

Animal feedlots owned by the businesses in the meat industry can muck up nearby well water, amalgamating the water with high levels of nitrates. Too much nitrate has been linked to miscarriages in humans and a syndrome in infants called “Blue Baby.“ ("Eating Meat Contributes to Air and Water Pollution.") Blue Baby Syndrome is when a baby is born with a congenital defect in the heart, therefore lacking oxygen in the blood and gives them a blue tint to the skin. According to an article published in the New York Times back in May of 2003, people who lived near hog farms across the country were claiming sickness was coming in with the wind. It brought them headaches and children’s lungs were suddenly closing up. People of all ages were requiring inhalers and oxygen tanks. Nosebleeds, earaches, diarrhea, and burning lungs were also amongst their complaints. Some nearby residents were even unfortunate enough to suffer permanent brain damage due to the air pollution released from the industrial farms. (Lee, Jennifer. "Neighbors of Vast Hog Farms Say Foul Air Endangers Their Health.")

Now back to the statement about the wasting of resources in the meat industry. Meat Factories are a prodigious cause of fresh water shortage. The amount of clean water to produce a single pound of beef is 441 gallons, the amount of water needed to grow one pound of grain is 14 gallons. As stated by Ed Ayres, of the World Watch Institute, "Pass up one hamburger, and you'll save as much water as you save by taking 40 showers with a low-flow nozzle." (Ayres, Ed. "Will We Still Eat Meat?")

After conducting multiple experiments, researchers at University of Chicago have come to the conclusion that making the swap from a typical American diet to a vegetarian diet is more effective in the fight against global warming than switching the common American car to a hybrid. With that in mind, a study conducted in Germany in 2008 concluded that a carnivorous person is responsible for seven times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions than a herbivorous person. ("Meat and the Environment.")

Lastly, taking up a vegetarian diet will not only effect you and the planet, but it saves hundreds of lives. As Leonardo da Vinci once exclaimed, “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” The butchering of animals in slaughterhouses is a barbaric and disturbing action that really can only be carried out, in my opinion, with those who lack a heart. A single meat-eating human being consumes roughly 230 pounds of animal each year.

Chickens are drugged to manipulate their genetics to make them develop quicker. A chicken can live up to be 16 years old, but sadly, they are typically slaughtered around 18 months. Because they develop so quickly, they almost always suffer from painful, crippling bone disorders and spinal defects that leave them unable to walk. ("Meet Your Meat: What Happens to Chickens, Pigs, and Fish?") When the chicken is eaten by a human, all drugs fed to the chicken remain in the meat and is passed on to the consumer. These drugs have been proven to be directly related to the earlier development in children. Basically, this is why preteens have more developed bodies than preteens of the past.

There are many laws about the treatment of animals that are destined to be butchered. There is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that was ratified in 1960 that prohibits unnecessary suffering, states that the cages they keep animals in have to have room sufficient to their size, and animals are not suppose to be exposed to their own kind being killed. Yet there are multiple cases of slaughterhouses violating these laws. There was a slaughterhouse in Texas that had over 22 violations in a mere six months. It is also unlawful to slaughter animals below 6 months, pregnant animals and sick animals. During an inspection in New York, there were 9 cows, still alive, found dangling from an overhead chain. As disgusting as this scenario is, forms of torment and abuse like so is not uncommon.

The methods of slaughtering range anywhere from electric prods to castration with no anesthetic. ("If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls.") Animals fall victim to branding, tail docking, and hot iron de-horning, all three without pain relief. Chickens are de-beaked. Animals have their legs broken or hacked off so they can not move. Larger animals are attached to tractors and dragged by chains, which results in broken bones and tearing of the ligaments. The law insists that each animal is supposed to be separate from others, made unconscious, and then killed. Most slaughterhouses do not follow this procedure though because it is so time consuming. ("An Inside Look at Slaughter Houses: An All Creatures Animal Rights.")

Pigs are castrated at a very young age and at the factory farms chunks are ripped out of their ears, teeth are removed with wire cutters, and their tails are burned off. Stalls are stacked and packed, and the waste of the pigs on the upper levels fall on the pigs on lower levels. Because of these filthy living conditions, three-fourths of pigs that are sent to the slaughter house have pneumonia. ("Meet Your Meat: What Happens to Chickens, Pigs, and Fish?")

The most used methods are the ones the cause the least amount of damage to the carcass, therefore most die from a slit throat, which could take hours. Some animals survive all through the tail cutting, when they remove the stomach, and even the skinning. ("An Inside Look at Slaughter Houses: An All Creatures Animal Rights.")

The most obvious way to save the animals from the terrible fate is to boycott meat products. Factory farms will decrease production of meat if there is a lesser demand for it. A single vegetarian can save nearly a hundred animals a year. ("Vegetarian 101.") Not only are you saving the animals, you are cleaning up your environment and making health choices that could save your life. Who knew just changing your diet could have such a major impact.





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