Millions of people around the world live without meat or fish and they probably each have their own reasons for doing so.
What is a vegetarian? The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as: "Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter."
*Shellfish are typically ‘a sea animal covered with a shell’. We take shellfish to mean;
- Crustaceans (hard external shell) Large – e.g. lobsters, crayfish, crabs, small – e.g. prawns, shrimps
- Molluscs (most are protected by a shell) E.g. mussels, oysters, winkles, limpets, clams, etc. Also includes cephalopods such as cuttlefish, squid, octopus.
There are different types of vegetarian:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
- Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
Eggs: Many lacto-ovo vegetarians will only eat free-range eggs. This is because of welfare objections to the intensive farming of hens. Through its Vegetarian Society Approved trade mark, the Vegetarian Society only endorses products containing free-range eggs.
Some people may be vegetarian for religious reasons. Jains, for example, are either lacto-vegetarian or vegan, while some Hindus and Buddhists may chose to practice a vegetarian diet.
Compassion for animals is one of the main reasons why people become vegetarian.
In the UK alone, over two million land animals and almost 600,000 tonnes of fish are slaughtered each year, just so that people can eat their flesh or wear their skin.
70% of pigs reared in the UK are farmed intensively.
- These intelligent and inquisitive animals are forced to live entirely indoors, in over-crowded sheds that do not allow them to express natural behaviours such as foraging and nest-building.
- Intensively-reared sows give birth and raise their young in farrowing crates. These metal crates are so small that sows cannot turn around or suckle their piglets.
Birds factory farmed today grow three times as fast as they did 50 years ago.
- Broiler chickens have been selectively bred and reared for their meat. The majority live in large, crowded, windowless sheds with tens of thousands of other birds.
Most sheep are not farmed intensively, but they still suffer.
- Diseases such as lameness, mastitis, Sheep Scab, pneumonia and hypothermia are common.
- Sheep may be transported considerable distances to slaughter; some journeys last 24 hours or more.
Over 2.6 million cattle were slaughtered in the UK in 2009.
- Calves have to endure castration, disbudding and dehorning.
- Increasing numbers of beef cattle are housed in pens on concrete or slats without bedding.
Fish do feel pain.
- Almost half of the fish we consume today are reared intensively on fish farms, where they suffer increased stress and disease.
- When wild fish are caught and hauled to the surface, decompression can cause their eyes to pop out and their stomachs to be pushed out through their mouths.
Can slaughter ever be humane?
- Most land animals killed for food in the UK are stunned before bleeding to death. We have some of the most stringent regulations in the world, but still many animals die in fear and pain. For many vegetarians, no form of slaughter can ever be considered humane.
Going vegetarian is one of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact. Livestock farming has a hugely detrimental effect on the natural world and it’s just not necessary. By swapping meat and fish for a plant-based diet you will:
Livestock farming produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. One study estimated that the farming of animals caused more emissions (18%) than the world’s entire transport system (13.5%).
It takes thousands more litres of water to produce a kilo of beef than to grow the same quantity of grains, vegetables or pulses. Manure, antibiotics and hormones all find their way from livestock farms into our water system, while fish farms release chemicals and parasites that threaten wildlife.
Livestock production is responsible for 70% of Amazon deforestation.
Industrial fishing practices are destroying fragile eco-systems and wiping out whole populations of sea creatures.
A balanced vegetarian diet is low in fat (especially saturated fat), high in complex carbohydrates and packed with a variety of fruits and vegetables; just as the government and the medical profession recommend.
Research has shown that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, some diet-related cancers, diverticular disease, appendicitis, constipation and gallstones.
Vegetarians are far more likely than the general population to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
Going vegetarian is easy, but everyone should think about what they eat. The Vegetarian Society has lots of resources to help you get started and to stay healthy.
Around 10 million turkeys are slaughtered in the UK to meet the demand for turkey at the Christmas table.
In the natural world a turkey’s lifespan is around ten years but for food they are normally killed between 9 and 21 weeks. Regardless of how animals are kept or reared, and whether they have higher welfare standards, the true cost to farm animals at Christmas is their lives.
According to those organisations promoting turkey meat, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a traditional roast turkey! But how 'traditional' is it really?
It's thought that Edward VII (1901 - 1910) made eating turkey fashionable at Christmas and it's consumption remained a luxury until the 1950's when refrigerators became commonplace.
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