Friday, May 7, 2010

10 good things about being vegetarian

Having just read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, I'm in a vegetarian mood. This is not too difficult for me, since I was a vegetarian until I was 16. Since then, I've probably eaten less than 20 pounds of meat a year (the national average is 222 pounds), plus fish once or twice a week.

Several years ago I decided that St. Benedict's advice, "Abstain entirely from the eating of the flesh of quadrupeds," was sound. Earlier this week Safran Foer's damning chapters on the poultry industry inspired me to pitch my half-eaten package of Trader Joe chicken tenders. (Call me heartless, but the information that pushed me over the edge wasn't the horrible abuse of the 99.9% of U.S. chickens that are raised in factory farms. It was the composition of what the chicken package describes as "7% water." After graphically describing the source of that water, Safran Foer labels it "shit soup".)

I haven't made up my mind yet about fish. Seafood Watch offers recommendations for "ocean friendly seafood," and Whole Foods claims to "build partnerships with farmers and fishermen that are committed to your health, the environment and the integrity of our ocean." Trouble is, the lovely frozen salmon we had for dinner last night, though bought at Whole Foods, is on Seafood Watch's "avoid" list. What's a girl to do?

Well, this girl makes lists. Here are 10 good things about being vegetarian.

Personal: what vegetarianism could do for you

1. Introduce you to fascinating ethnic cuisines
2. Lower your risk of ischemic heart disease
3. Lower your risk of various cancers
4. Reduce your spending on food
5. Help you lose weight
6. Eliminate most attacks of “stomach flu” or food poisoning

Global: what reduced meat consumption could do for the world

7. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
8. Reduce the risk of epidemics
9. Reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections
10. Reduce cruelty to animals

The list is just a start. Feel free to add to it.

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