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While the great physicist Albert Einstein and the civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi shared the characteristics of a lifelong dedication to a plant-based diet, each of these figures did so for different reasons. Gandhi made his decision to be a vegetarian based on spiritual and philosophical principles, whereas Einstein simply saw vegetarianism as a logical and informed choice. There is no need to be a great thinker or great leader, however, in order to save the world. All individuals can and should adopt a plant-based diet as a means of ensuring health of people, the environment and the resources that power the economy. Eating a plant-based diet can have benefits that go beyond simply avoiding the unpleasant thought of how animals in modern society are kept and harvested for use as human food. By eating a plant-based diet, there is the possibility of developing a positive impact on the environment, on personal health and the economic productivity which determines quality of life. While there are contrary arguments to the adoption of plant-based diets, those arguments require the acceptance of unnecessary death and suffering in the population due to preventable disease and preterm mortality, as well as environmental impacts that create poor conditions for sustainable use. As this paper will show, the counterargument also makes some mistaken arguments, which, when accounted for, increases the value of choosing a plant-based diet over one which involves meat. There is a clear indication from all levels of evidence that adopting a plant-based diet is the best choice with the least negative, and the most positive impacts on all stakeholders.
Eating meat has terrible impacts on the environment and creates both short term and long term problems. In order to farm the chickens, pigs, cattle, turkey and other domestic animals consumed by humans, the inputs include huge amounts of land, including land for the animals as well as for their food sources; a great use of energy; and huge amounts of water including the production of immense amounts of potentially biohazardous waste water. Environmental hazards, including contamination of air, water and soil and carbon capture in the atmosphere are caused by modern practices of animal factories and farms. Meat production has a very negative impact on environmental health, and meat production is a contributing cause of climate change, but these important considerations are not often known by the general public. Further, the realization is not always made that the environmental burden, including land use and the risks of environmental damage, are far less intensive or harmful for plant-based farming than for the farming of animal products. The energy required, as well as gases which are released by animals in the form of flatulence are the cause of significant contamination in the atmosphere. A lack of awareness of important reasons to reduce meat consumption is unsustainable. Unfortunately, the ignorance of the real impacts of meat production and consumptions are reinforced by the high value that some cultures and groups place on the consumption of meat, and this challenge has been difficult to overcome. In the meantime, increasing population pressures are increasing the environmental pressure created by increased meat production to meet growing demand. The question of sustainability will soon become one that cannot be avoided, and difficult decisions regarding what society must give up in order to facilitate the continued production of meat may be an unfortunate consequence if things continue to develop based on the status quo. Further, this predicts even higher levels of disease and early death, and compounding spiral of negative outcomes as environmental health, personal health and health of the economy reach crisis levels of contamination, disease and allocation of resources on solving preventable problems.
The personal hazards of not eating a plant-based diet include an increased risk of early death due to preventable disease. The many diseases that become higher risk with increasing consumption of meat include diabetes, heart disease and failure, stroke, and cancer. This includes the risks of developing these diseases, an also the risks of managing the diseases and potential acute outcomes. In addition to the higher risks of chronic disease risks, there are also greater risks of food poisoning, parasitic infection or simply rancid food. There is truth to the allegation that meat contains nutrition in the form of amino acids, calories, iron and vitamins such as B12 that cannot be produced in plants, however these are all available by eating plants. Further, there is an unfortunate tendency of affluent societies to eat far more meat than the individuals in that society need to satisfy their nutritional needs, resulting in high levels of obesity and poor health. A more repulsive aspect of meat is the presence of parasites and bacterial disease. For example, pork can have Trichinella. Deli meats and similar processed chicken, beef, pork, turkey and mixed products are at risk for Listeria contamination. These personal risks, both at the cause of infectious diseases as well as preventable lifestyle related diseases should be sufficient evidence that eating meat has many disadvantages and drawbacks. On the other hand, eating a plant-based diet is associated with many personal advantages and benefits, such as being a healthier weight. Avoiding disease, living a longer life, and having a healthy appearance appear to be just some of the personal advantages of adoption a plant-based diet.
One of the most important aspects of the study of economics is the allocation of resources. Currently a significant amount of land, antibiotics and other resources are needed for the production of animals for food. If much or all of the global population were to adopt a plant-based diet, then these resources could be allocated to more productive uses, including bioethanol and plant-based fuels, and other non-food productive uses. This is because of the need to use vast areas of land to support meat farming, as the animals themselves require food. The resulting land use of a planet which did not eat meat would be very different, with significant territory leftover after the necessary allocation for plant-based food production. This becomes even more important when one considers the alternative, which is the increasing allocation of productive resources to meat production to meet the needs of a growing world population that has rising incomes. The plant-based diet would also result in another area of resource allocation- health care. By reducing or preventing many chronic diseases through the adoption of a plant-based diet, health care resources would not be in demand for chronic disease management and acute events related to lifestyle caused disease. The health care systems could better focus on prevention and wellness, and patients would enjoy optimized health outcomes. Perhaps the money that is currently spent by individuals, governments and others today would instead go to more productive uses that leverage innovation and economic growth. Many positive secondary effects are likely if people adopt a plant-based diet because so many negative consequences would terminate or be reduced, leaving free resources and providing greater value to society as a whole on multiple levels.
Not everyone agrees with the premise that the adoption of a plant-based diet could create compounding positive results. While there is wide agreement that vegetables are good for health, there is no consensus on the adoption of plant-based diets, and the concept has critics. Objectors and meat eaters that do not support the adoption of plant-based diets point to the fact that meat contains nutrients that humans need, and that a vegetarian diet can still be unhealthy. For example, a vegetarian diet of just meatless but processed foods can involve too much salt, fat and sugar. There is also truth to the claim that poor food choices are still possible even if one does not eat meat. A plant-based diet, however, has some further important connotations. For example, much of the unhealthy aspect of non-meat choices involve food that has added salt, sugar or high fat content. These represent foods that are removed from the concept of plant-based, which, while accepting some basic processing and transformation to the plants, does not see the addition of highly processed flavor makers to be plant-based at all. Further, plant-based goes further than simply being vegetarian or not eating meat, as such a plant-based diet excludes dairy, eggs and similar animal products that are acceptable to some vegetarian diets, but not in fact plant-based. The point about meat having nutrients is an important one as well. With regard to protein, including iron and other needs, plants can provide all that is necessary apart from vitamin B12, which can be gotten from specially prepared plant-based supplements in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes outdoor sun exposure. The unnecessary suffering of hundreds of millions of people can be prevented with this simple change of lifestyle, but in doing so the average individual leading a modern Western lifestyle will find that it works against many of the easy and affordable options that are presented for food consumption. This can change as more people adopt plant-based diets, and thereby increase the demand for plant-based food products that are affordable and sustainably produced. While those that support the counter position that meat is an important part of the human diet make some important points, these critics do not overcome the overwhelming evidence of harm caused by eating meat. Fortunately, there is the possibility of overwhelming meat supporters with the growing evidence that continues to make clear the benefits and wellness that can result from the adoption of a plant-based diet.
In conclusion, adopting a plant-based diet now makes all the difference in the world. Plant-based diets ensure a better environment now and, in the future, better health for the person who practices the diet, and a better allocation of important resources that allow for a more productive society which has a higher quality of life. A plant-based diet involves not only avoiding meat, but also avoiding additional salt, sugar and fat which is believed to be the main contributing cause to all main preventable diseases. These diseases include increased suffering, costs of providing health care for the management and disease and also for the care required because of the increased risk of acute events, and a shorter life. Instead, it is possible to benefit from increased health, a more sustainable environment, and a healthier economy. The animals benefit as well, by never being subjected to the terrible conditions in which modern animal farming occurs. Meat producers seek to make profits, and with a dramatic drop in demand for meat, new opportunities and directions become possible for every segment of society.
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