Last updated February 2012
There are 3 million vegetarians in the UK. Many more are semi-vegetarian; or opting to have less meat in their diet. The numbers are growing every year. You might want to join them.
For most people, cutting out meat from their diet doesn't reduce what they eat - it opens up a whole new world of foods. Our lives revolve around food - being vegetarian doesn't exclude you from that. You can still have curry and lager, a summer picnic, luxurious Christmas lunch, romantic candle lit dinner. But vegetarians just do it without dining on animals. We have a zest for life that doesn't involve taking away someone else's life.
There are many reasons why you might want to cut out or cut down on eating meat. We've listed only a few reasons below under Health, Environment, Developing World and Animal Welfare. For every point we've mentioned there are many more - we could literally write a book.
Reducing or cutting out meat is the best thing you can do for you and your family's health. It's been proven that meat contributes greatly to heart disease, cholesterol, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, strokes, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, impotence, obesity, kidney failure, osteoporosis, food poisoning.
Farm animals are given steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics which ends up in our food.
Farmed fish contain chemicals which cause cancer, nervous system disorders, kidney damage, mental retardation and foetal damage.
Meat is destroying the planet.
Meat production causes more pollution than travel. 18% of greenhouse gases are caused by animal farming, 4% by travel.
Rainforests are destroyed for meat. A football pitch every 4 seconds!
Fish farming in Scotland causes the same amount of ammonia annually equivalent to sewage produced by 9.4 million people. That's more ammonia than is created by the whole population of 5 million Scots!
Despite what you might think from living in rainy Scotland, the world's running out of water. Yet to produce 1kg of wheat takes 1,000 litres; to produce 1kg of beef uses 100,000 litres.
Oceans are being destroyed by over-fishing. Drift nets up to 30 miles long create deserts under the sea. That's like a net between Glasgow and Stirling being trawled along the ground and catching every human, animal, tree and building within its path. This happens every day.
People are starving to supply the meat industry. Much of the developing world's crops are exported to the Western world to feed our livestock.
It would take 40 million tons of food to eliminate the most extreme cases of hunger. The amount fed by the meat industry to livestock is 540 million tons.
There are lots of reasons why eating meat is cruel to animals.
THE MASSIVE SCALE OF DEATHS
48 billion animals killed worldwide every year to eat.
1 billion of those animals killed in the UK.
700 million of those animals in the UK are chickens.
Farm animals are as intelligent and sensitive as your own cat and dog. But they are kept in appalling conditions.
Chicks have their beaks removed with hot knives. Sheep freeze to death in winter. Salmon at 2.5 feet are given a bathtub of water. 40,000 chickens housed in one smelly, windowless shed. Mother pigs kept in a metal farrowing crate so small they can barely move, where they go mad with boredom Baby pigs are drugged and have to go through cold turkey. Speaking of turkeys - as much as 80% of their litter is faeces giving them ulcerated feet and painful ammonia burns.
PETA say "The largest ships in the ocean often search exclusively for small "trash fish" who were once considered inedible but are now being slaughtered by the billions, ground up, and turned into food pellets for farmed fish. Hundreds of tons of fish are caught with each sweep of the ships' massive nets; they're dragged aboard and dumped into rotting cesspools such as the one shown, where they will suffocate and die before they are taken to a fish-pellet processing plant. It can take 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce just 1 pound of farmed fish. Fish farms also pollute the environment with tons of fish feces, antibiotic-laden fish feed, and diseased fish carcasses. "
Imagine you're on a bus. It's so crowded that people are squashed against you from every angle and you have to stand. You've been on this journey for hours with no food or drink. The crammed conditions make you very hot, possibly bringing on hyperthermia. People around you are so frightened they poo and pee, which makes the bus smell and underfoot is slippery and dangerous. You are exhausted but you daren't fall down or else you will be trampled. You're being hurtled by the bus through strange places that are completely alien to you with scary noises.
This is what happens to animals every day when they are transported to abattoirs, markets or other farms. These are the lucky ones. Many millions more have to travel by seas for weeks.
It's terrifying and painful for the animal.
They are taken to the abattoir, which for animals is an ordeal in itself.
Animals tend to be first stunned, a way of rendering them unconscious before killing. Because slaughterhouses try to kill as many animals per minute as possible to maximise profit, the stunning is often not done properly and so the animal is still conscious for the next step in the slaughter where they are hung up by their leg - even big animals like cows and pigs. They are put on a conveyer belt to have their throats slit.
Pigs and fowl then go into a tank of boiling water to remove their hair or feathers. Many are still alive at this stage. (Check out chickens in your supermarket - if they have red marks under their skin then they were still alive.)
Sea fish, when hauled up from the depths, undergo excruciating decompression. Frequently, the intense internal pressure ruptures the swim bladder, while the eyes pop out and the oesophagus and stomach can be pushed out through the animal’s mouth.
Farmed fish take up to 15 minutes to die of suffocation.
A picture says a thousand words, a film even more. Please have the strength to watch them. http://www.meat.org/
Meat - It's just wrong!
THE GOOD NEWS!!
YOU can make a difference to THOUSANDS of animals in your own life time.
By not eating meat, you could save the lives of: 1 rabbit, 23 sheep, 4 cattle, 1 goose, 39 turkeys, 18 pigs, 28 ducks, 1,158 chickens, 2,750 fish.
There are so many meat alternatives in the supermarkets and health food shops. Every restaurant now has several vegetarian options. Most takeaways have vegetarian options. You will find a McDonald's or Burger King in pretty much every town. KFC is dragging its knuckles in not offering a main meal, but you can eat chips and side orders.
For further inspiration, read our list of famous vegetarians here on this website.
We provide a Vegetarian Buddy scheme to help those thinking of becoming vegetarian. It's a bit like losing weight or giving up smoking - it's a lot easier if you have someone there to support you and share your experiences. Get in touch if you'd like more info. firstname.lastname@example.org