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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] In contrast, teenage boys, who have many exertions from sports and other activities, need meat almost daily, so there are far fewer teenage boys than girls that have taken up the fad of vegetarianism. 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.

Nutritional Issues

Some nutritionists have argued that vegetarianism is an unsustainable diet. It can be difficult to regularly get all of your daily required nutrients without eating animal products every day. 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.[8] 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"[9] Vegetarians suffer from higher rates of certain diseases, such as osteoporosis, anemia, bulimia, and thyroid problems due to the lack of calcium and other nutrients in their diets. Recently, scientists discovered that a vegetable-heavy diet can actually cause brain shrinkage.[10]

Another danger of the vegetarian diet is an over reliance on highly processed soy products, which contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), impair proper thyroid functions and contain 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]

In contrast, 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.[12] Also, in Daniel 1:4-15, Daniel and his companions 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 rich food.

Conversely Genesis 1:26 clearly states that God gave dominion over the animals to man, furthermore after the worldwide flood God says to Noah that every moving thing shall be food to him (Genesis 9: 3). Jesus eats lamb (Luke 22: 7-8), eats fish (Luke 24:41-43), serves fish during the miracle of the loaves and fish (Matthew 15:34-37) and encourages the consumption of fish (John 21: 5-6). A fair reading of the bible doesn't unearth any commandment against vegetarianism, neither is it endorsed, though the current ideological climate of vegetarians is usually hostile to Christ.

Famous Vegetarians

H G Wells, science fiction writer and vegetarian

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. According to Olivant, the most useful supplements for the vegetarians contain nutrients that may be limited in their diet, such as omega-3. [3]
  9. Dr. Ray Sahelian
  10. Times of India Eating Veggie Shrinks the Brain
  12. Vegetarian Diets
  13. (Genesis 1:29)
  14. Bob Barker [4]
  15. History of Vegetarianism [5]
  16. History of Vegetarianism [6]
  17. [7]

See also

External Links