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Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from meat consumption. Somebody who practices vegetarianism is referred to as a vegetarian.

Reasons for vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is a common theme among the Dharmic religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. This stems from the belief that all higher animal life is sacred (in Jainism, all life is considered sacred), one of the core concepts of all of these religions. For more than 130 years Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) have practiced a vegetarian dietary lifestyle because of their belief in the wholistic nature of people.[1] Pythagoreanism also required its followers to abstain from meat, fish, and beans. It was also a central tenet of the Essene branch of Judaism.

Many people outside of these religions also choose to be vegetarians because of various other beliefs, such as abstinence from contributing to inhumane farming methods practiced by the meat production industry, or to lessen their environmental impact. Health is sometimes provided as another reason to adopt vegeterianism, though its health advantages are debatable. The section below provides more on the nutritional concerns.

Most non-religious vegetarians are college students or teenagers, for whom the vegeterianism is often a short-lived fad or mode of rebellion from their parents and other adults. Once their idealism becomes tempered with more experience (or they become tired of maintaining a vegetarian diet), they often return to eating meat. The major exception to this are teens who adopt vegetarianism as a personal form of animal activism. Lucy Watkins, editor of, was interviewed on the matter:

Young people, especially girls, tend to be very loving and softhearted. [Lucy] Watkins says that, although sometimes teens become vegetarians because it's the latest fad, animal activism is often a spark for young people to become vegetarians. When it's done for "faddish" reasons, they usually don't stick with it. The animal rights kids tend to stay the course.[2]

Vegetarianism among teenage girls has troubled many dietitians, because in their eagerness to adopt it, teenage girls often underestimate the responsibilities and consequences of a vegetarian lifestyle.[3][4] There is conflicting advice about the health effects of vegetarianism on teenagers,[5] however given the ideological underrtones associated with the movement parents might be wise to discourage vegetarianism.[6]

Forms of vegetarianism

  • Vegan - A vegan diet excludes all food and ingredients that comes from animals. This excludes animal meat, animal products such as milk, cheese, eggs or honey, and byproducts such as gelatin. Effort is needed to make a vegan diet healthy.[7] "Vegan" can refer both to the diet and the dieter.
  • Lactovegetarian - Someone who eats a plant-based diet but also eats animal produced foods (that do not result in the death of the animal) such as milk and cheese. Lacto vegetarians can relatively easily remain healthy.
  • Ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovo-vegetarian) - Similar to the Lactovegetarian but also consumes eggs.
  • Pescatarian - This form of vegetarianism includes the consumption of fish, but no other varieties of meat. Eggs and dairy may be part of this diet. Since fish are still living animals, stricter vegetarians (especially those who are vegetarians for moral reasons) are likely to feel that pescatarians are not true vegetarians.
  • Fruitarian - A Fruitarian's diet is limited to fruit, nuts and seeds. Some fruitarians will only eat food that has dropped to the ground instead of picking it from a tree.

Nutritional issues

The American Dietetic Association and the Dietitians of Canada have taken the position that properly planned vegetarian diets can be nutritious, healthy, and provide benefits in helping prevent and treat some diseases, possibly with the help of nutritional supplements.[8] Indeed, because a proper vegetarian diet is low in cholesterol and saturated fats, many vegetarians are healthier than some meat-eaters.

In contrast, some nutritionists have argued that vegetarianism is an unsustainable diet, claiming that it can be difficult to regularly get all of your daily required nutrients without eating animal products. Soy, nuts and beans are often used as a source of protein and a substitute for meat, but nonetheless many vegetarians have to take vitamin supplements or eat enriched foods - although lacto-ovo vegetarians usually have their needs met by dairy products and eggs.[9] Nutrionist Dr. Ray Sahelian warns "Those who eat very little meat, fish and foul (sic) and ... may be missing, or getting very little, crucial nutrients for optimal health such as vitamin B12, iron, creatine, carnitine, and several other nutrients"[10] Vegetarians suffer from higher rates of certain diseases, such as osteoporosis, anemia, and thyroid problems due to the lack of calcium and other nutrients in their diets, although this should be compared with the much higher rates of heart disease and high cholesterol suffered by non-vegetarians.

Another danger of the vegetarian diet is an over reliance on highly processed soy products. Some critics have alleged that because soy contains phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), it can impair proper thyroid functions and contains compounds that inhibit absorption of minerals and protein. Many people mistake the historic use of soy in Asian countries (with high life expectancies) as evidence that soy is healthy, however these cultures use different methods of preparing their soy foods, and consume far less than the average vegetarian.[11]

Biblical issues

Nearly all of the Bible operates on the premise that meat is a normal part of the human diet. Beginning with Genesis 1:26, God gives dominion of the animals to man, where specific reference is made to cattle (in the King James Version) or livestock (in the English Standard Version and others). Genesis 1:29 indicates that the human diet was originally limited to plants, but sin entered the world and after the flood meat was allowed in the human diet.

By Genesis 4, animal sacrifices are offered to God, indicating the value of meat to humans. This is reinforced in Genesis 7:3, where Noah was commanded to bring ritually clean animals aboard the Ark. Verses such as Exodus 16:3, Numbers 11:4, Deuteronomy 12:15 and 12:20-21 indicate that a meat-based diet was a blessing. Psalm 78:27 and 105:40 recall God's divine provision of meat during the Exodus, along with bread from heaven in abundance.

From this perspective, a meat-based diet was considered acceptable; meat was only considered sinful if it were of a ritually unclean animal. With this in mind, Daniel 1:4-15 tells the story of Daniel and his companions who declined to eat Babylonian royal food, and instead requested fresh water and vegetables. At the end of ten days, they were healthier than those who ate the royal food. The narrative indicates that eating the royal food (which likely included unclean meat) would have been defiling.

In the New Testament, Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19). His diet was not a vegetarian one, but consisted of lamb (Luke 22:7-8) and fish (Luke 24:41-43). His provision of fish to others (Matthew 15:34-37, John 21:5-6) was miraculous.

In echoing Daniel, Acts 15:29 condemns the consumption of food sacrificed to idols and meat that has been strangled. In Romans 14:14, the Apostle Paul states that he believes no food item to be unclean, but that if anyone believes something to be unclea that for them it is unclean.

Although meat eating is acceptable under the Bible, needless cruelty is not. Treating an animal carelessly as an object, rather than compassionately as a creation of God, is not living within the traditions of Biblical animal husbandry (see Proverbs 12:10). In Matthew 6:26 Jesus tells His followers that God looks after the animals. It is clear from this verse that God The Father cares for His creation. How could we be living Christian lives if we were to show less respect to God's creatures than God Himself does, especially since God gave us the responsibility for dominion in Genesis 1:28? We should be mindful of how the animals we eat were treated in life, and should not fund cruel practices with our purchases.

Famous vegetarians

H G Wells, science fiction writer and vegetarian
Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian for much of his life.

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown, 2009.


  1. Andrews University Nutrition Department
  3. [1] "Most dietitians I spoke with who have teenage vegetarian clients agree that teens avoiding meat is becoming a trend or fad and that the vegetarian teenagers (mostly girls aged 14 to 17) they counsel usually come from meat-eating families."
  4. [2] "Quite a few girls turn to vegetarian diets in their mid or late teens. As a way of eating, vegetarianism has a lot to recommend it. Trouble is, most teens don't realise that giving up meat makes it much more difficult to eat a healthy diet. The point is, meat is a very convenient source of important vitamins and minerals, especially iron. So if you stop eating meat, you need to eat a wide range of vegetarian foods to compensate for this deficiency. Unfortunately, vegetarian teenagers are not famous for doing this."
  7. Vegan regimen
  8. Vegetarian Diets
  9. According to Olivant, the most useful supplements for the vegetarians contain nutrients that may be limited in their diet, such as omega-3. [3]
  10. Dr. Ray Sahelian
  12. (Genesis 1:29)
  13. Bob Barker
  14. History of Vegetarianism
  15. History of Vegetarianism