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Green is Best
Photo: Tory Byrne
Vegetarians eat healthier diets, suffer much less heart disease and cancer, and live longer. A plant-based diet is not only good for people, it is also better for animals and for the environment. It may also be good for the economy. Disease related to a diet rich in animal foods contributes to escalating health-care costs. It has been estimated that if America went vegetarian the country could save about $60 billion annually.

Vegetarians enjoy lower levels of blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure levels, less obesity, and less diabetes than those whose diet includes meat. Heart patients on a plant-based diet have less cardiac events and their arteries are more likely to become less clogged over time. A recent study observed a 27 percent lower mortality from cardiovascular disease in adults eating three or more servings of fruits and vegetables compared to those eating less than one serving a day.

Ninety percent of all chickens leaving the food processing plant are contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, while 2.3 million eggs are contaminated with Salmonella each year. While food poisoning can make life miserable, it is usually short-lived. However, sometimes food-borne illnesses have long-term consequences. Reiter’s Syndrome is a type of arthritis caused by Salmonella, while Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder caused by Campylobacter infection.

In addition, there are over 1000 deaths every year caused by food-borne illnesses linked to meat, poultry, dairy, and egg products. Consumer Reports recently reported that one percent of ground beef samples purchased at grocery stores had fecal contamination. In addition, four percent of the beef samples were on the brink of spoilage.

Cattle Cause Global Warming

When it comes to global warming, methane and nitrous oxide are 20 and 300 times as potent, respectively, as carbon dioxide, a well-known greenhouse gas generated from automobiles and power plants. Cattle, and their decomposing manure, are reported to be major sources of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide.

It is calculated to take about 1600 calories of energy from fossil fuels to produce 100 calories of grain-fed beef; and about 500 calories of fossil fuels to produce 100 calories of chicken or milk. On the other hand, the burning of 500 calories of fossil fuels could generate 1000 calories’ worth of plant foods. It takes about 14 trillion gallons of water annually to water crops grown to feed livestock in the U.S. It requires 4,500 gallons of water to produce a quarter-pound of raw beef. Just to irrigate hay and alfalfa alone, it takes seven trillion gallons of water, which exceeds the irrigation needs of all vegetables, berries, and fruit orchards combined.

About 140 million cattle, pigs, and sheep are slaughtered annually in the U.S. for human consumption. In addition, nine billion chickens and turkeys are killed for food. The ethics of factory farming has been seriously called into question by many. Many animals are housed in cramped living conditions where they may have to sit in their own excrement. The amount of space allotted to the average layer hen to live and is only 0.5 square feet. In addition, the dehorning and tail docking of cattle, and the debeaking and detoeing of chickens are common practices today and cause a lot of pain in innocent animals.

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By Winston J. Craig, R.D. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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