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Real Issues: The Vegetarian Debate

By Cullen Ormond

There are few questions, that when directed at me, result in an immediate, physical reaction.

“Why are you a vegetarian?”

I become anxious and my hands swell like a sponge that has been dunked in a bowl of water. It is not solely the question that causes such an effect, but also the conversation that is guaranteed to follow.

It seems as though this question which snowballs into a seminar of unsolicited opinions and advice is present at every juncture. If I’m ordering from a menu at a restaurant and have to ask if a sauce has meat, someone will swoop in with questions or comments followed by awkward pauses and long stares. However, it sometimes occurs that an invitation to an event is accompanied by an online form to select a meal option, and quickly I become giddy. Triumphantly, I smash my finger onto the mousepad with forceful vigor, smug and silent without having to provide my rehearsed statement.

But, more often than not, I’ll have to recite my defenses, which are backed by emotion, not research and thus not likely to convince someone who needs the hard facts to understand.

“I don’t agree with how animals are treated in America’s meat factories. If we treated our animals more humanely then maybe I would eat meat.”


“Well, free range doesn’t always mean the animals are free to roam. Sometimes it means just a couple of inches more of space.”


“Protein doesn’t only come from animals. I eat tofu and imitation meat, which has protein, and there’s also vegetables and nuts. I’m also not vegan, so I still eat eggs. And sometimes I will eat fish, so you could technically refer to me as a somewhat pescatarian.”


“I understand fish aren’t treated well either. No, I do believe fish have brains. Yes, I believe they can feel pain. No, I don’t feel good about myself eating them. It’s only if I’m in a bind.”

After five years of not regularly eating meat, I should have a surplus of facts and figures molded into durable armor. But, I do not. So, in an effort to have a wider range of information to give to those who doubt and to spread awareness, I’ve decided to cover all things vegetarian.

The fiery debate. The main entrée. The gripping controversy: protein or believed lack thereof. A cautionary tale, (not always) whispered amongst meat eaters to warn against a diet that doesn’t produce adequate levels of protein. Well, I am here today to pop that bubble just like you’ll be popping a cup of cooked peas into your mouth, which yields nine whole grams of protein!

The FDA recommends that an average person should acquire 50 grams of protein per day and guess what? Vegetables and imitation meat have lots of protein. Seitan, which is the most similar to actual meat, is made out gluten, the protein of wheat, and has 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, according to Healthline.

And for all consumers, regardless of diet, it is important to be mindful of the food that you put into your body. A 2016 study that analyzed 130,000 food eaters found that “each three percent increase in calories from plant protein was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of death.”

However, one sure-fire thing vegetarians and meat eaters have in common is our love to eat. But guess what? If our earth isn’t functioning at its full, green, healthy potential then we all lose. A popular reason to be a vegetarian is the minimal carbon footprint the diet leaves behind. The meat and dairy industry produce more harm than “vegetable or cereal growing,” according to a study published in the journal Science. The industry takes up “83 percent of farmland and produces 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.” And if you’re looking to make a green difference, scientists have some advice.

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, of the University of Oxford.

I understand, I’m a rare case, but most individuals don’t wish unnecessary harm against animals. Do you have a pet? I do. I push my dog in a stroller. She has a section in my closet where her clothes hang. I hand make her food (she does eat meat though).Unfortunately, the meat industry, which has become a behemoth since swallowing up small farms, does not feel the same. This industry is driven by capitalism and greed where cruelty (along with chemically infused meat) is a by-product.

“Each year, an estimated nine billion broiler chickens, 113 million pigs, 33 million cows and 250 million turkeys are raised for our consumption in dark, filthy, pestilent barns,” wrote Paul Solotaroffin a Rolling Stone article.

Animals that are born into this sad world typically live in isolation. A pig will spend her whole life in a crate, continuously impregnated, “breathing in her own waste while fed food packed with growth-promoting drugs, and sometimes even garbage,” wrote Solotaroff.