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Dangers of Meat

There is no nutritional need for humans to eat any animal products; all of our dietary needs, even as infants and children, are best supplied by an animal-free diet. Our evolutionary ancestors were, and our closest primate relatives are, vegetarians. Human teeth and intestines are designed for eating and digesting plant foods, so it is no wonder that our major health problems can be traced to meat consumption.

The consumption of animal products has been conclusively linked with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Cholesterol (found only in animal products) and animal fat clog arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. A vegetarian diet can prevent 97 percent of coronary occlusions. The rate of colon cancer is highest in regions where meat consumption is high, and lowest where meat-eating is uncommon. A similar pattern is evident for breast, cervical, uterine, ovarian, prostate, and lung cancers.

Low-fat diets, particularly those without saturated fat, have been instrumental in allowing many diabetics to dispense with their pills, shots, and pumps. A study of more than 25,000 people over age 21 found that vegetarians have a much lower risk of getting diabetes than meat-eaters.

Osteoporosis, or bone loss due to mineral (particularly calcium) depletion, is not so much a result of insufficient calcium as it is a result of eating too much protein. A 1983 Michigan State University study found that by age 65, male vegetarians had an average measurable bone loss of 3 percent; male meat-eaters, 18 percent; female vegetarians, 7 percent; female meat-eaters, 35 percent

In addition to the problems associated with too much fat, cholesterol, and protein, consumers of animal products take in far greater amounts of residual agricultural chemicals, industrial pollutants, antibiotics, and hormones than do vegetarians. The absorption of antibiotics through meat-eating results in antibiotic-resistent strains of pneumonia, childhood meningitis, gonorrhea, salmonella, and other serious illnesses.

Meat contains 14 times as many pesticide residues as plant foods. Fish is another source of dangerous residues. The EPA estimates that fishes can accumulate up to nine million times the level of cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs) found in the waters in which they live.

Ecological Arguments

More than 4 million acres of cropland are lost to erosion in the United States every year. Of this staggering topsoil loss, 85 percent is directly associated with livestock raising, i.e., over-grazing.

Throughout the world, forests are being destroyed to support the meat-eating habits of the "developed" nations. Between 1960 and 1985, nearly 40 percent of all Central American rain forests were destroyed to create pasture for beef cattle. The rain forests are the primary source of oxygen for the entire planet; the very survival of the earth is linked to their survival. The forests also provide ingredients for many medicines used to treat and cure human illnesses, and these resources have yet to be explored for their full potential.

Much of the excrement from "food" animals (which amounts to 20 times as much fecal matter as human waste) flows unfiltered into our lakes and streams.

The production of one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. It takes less water to produce a year's worth of food for a pure vegetarian than to produce a month's worth of food for a meat-eater.

Humanitarian Concerns

Raising animals for food is an extremely inefficient way to feed a growing human population. The U.S. livestock population consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than five times the entire U.S. population. One acre of pasture produces an average of 165 pounds of beef; the same acre can produce 20,000 pounds of potatoes.

If Americans reduced their meat consumption by only 10 percent, it would free 12 million tons of grain annually for human consumption. That alone would be enough to adequately feed each of the 60 million people who starve to death each year.

Information taken from John Robbins, Diet for a New America (Walpole, N.H.: Stillpoint Publishing, 1987)