International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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Religion and Vegetarianism
How to Win an Argument with a Meat Eater
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami


3. How to Win an Argument with a Meat-Eater

While their numbers are rapidly growing, vegetarians are still a minority, and it is not unusual to be confronted with a meat-eater who not only protects his own right to eat flesh, but argues aggressively that vegetarians should join him in his carnivorous diet. Carnivores may regard nonmeat-eaters as a strange lot who munch on "rabbit food," and whose diet doesn't have the substance to make them strong, productive human beings. The following presentation is designed to turn the tables on such discussions by showing the devastating effects of meat-eating both on individuals and on our planet. It is based on a richly informative poster entitled, "How to win an argument with a meat-eater," published by Earthsave, an organization based in Felton, California, giving facts from Pulitzer Prize nominee John Robbins' book Diet for a New America. Below are eight separate arguments against meat-eating and in favor of a vegetarian diet.

1. The Hunger Argument against meat-eating

Much of the world's massive hunger problems could be solved by the reduction or elimination of meat-eating. The reasons: 1) livestock pasture needs cut drastically into land which could otherwise be used to grow food; 2) vast quantities of food which could feed humans is fed to livestock raised to produce meat.

This year alone, twenty million people worldwide will die as a result of malnutrition. One child dies of malnutrition every 2.3 seconds. One hundred million people could be adequately fed using the land freed if Americans reduced their intake of meat by a mere 10%.

Twenty percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is eaten by people. Eighty percent of the corn and 95% of the oats grown in the U.S. is eaten by livestock. The percentage of protein wasted by cycling grain through livestock is calculated by experts as 90%.

One acre of land can produce 40,000 pounds of potatoes, or 250 pounds of beef. Fifty-six percent of all U.S. farmland is devoted to beef production, and to produce each pound of beef requires 16 pounds of edible grain and soybeans, which could be used to feed the hungry.

2. The Environmental Argument against meat-eating

Many of the world's massive environmental problems could be solved by the reduction or elimination of meat-eating, including global warming, loss of topsoil, loss of rainforests and species extinction.

The temperature of the earth is rising. This global warming, known as "the greenhouse effect," results primarily from carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas. Three times more fossil fuels must be burned to produce a meat-centered diet than for a meat-free diet. If people stopped eating meat, the threat of higher world temperatures would be vastly diminished.

Trees, and especially the old-growth forests, are essential to the survival of the planet. Their destruction is a major cause of global warming and top soil loss. Both of these effects lead to diminished food production. Meat-eating is the number one driving force for the destruction of these forests. Two-hundred and sixty million acres of U.S. forestland has been cleared for cropland to produce the meat-centered diet. Fifty-five square feet of tropical rainforest is consumed to produce every quarter-pound of rainforest beef. An alarming 75% of all U.S. topsoil has been lost to date. Eighty-five percent of this loss is directly related to livestock raising.

Another devastating result of deforestation is the loss of plant and animal species. Each year 1,000 species are eliminated due to destruction of tropical rainforests for meat grazing and other uses. The rate is growing yearly.

To keep up with U.S. consumption, 300 million pounds of meat are imported annually from Central and South America. This economic incentive impels these nations to cut down their forests to make more pastureland. The short-term gain ignores the long-term, irreparable harm to the earth's ecosystem. In effect these countries are being drained of their resources to put meat on the table of Americans while 75% of all Central American children under the age of five are undernourished.

3. The Cancer Argument against meat-eating

Those who eat flesh are far more likely to contract cancer than those following a vegetarian diet.

The risk of contracting breast cancer is 3.8 times greater for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week; 2.8 times greater for women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week; and 3.25 greater for women who eat butter and cheese 2 to 4 times a week as compared to once a week.

The risk of fatal ovarian cancer is three times greater for women who eat eggs 3 or more times a week as compared with less than once a week.

The risk of fatal prostate cancer is 3.6 times greater for men who consume meat, cheese, eggs and milk daily as compared with sparingly or not at all.

4. The Cholesterol Argument against meat-eating

Here are facts showing that: 1) U.S. physicians are not sufficiently trained in the importance of the relation of diet to health; 2) meat-eaters ingest excessive amounts of cholesterol, making them dangerously susceptible to heart attacks.

It is strange, but true that U.S. physicians are as a rule ill-educated in the single most important factor of health, namely diet and nutrition. Of the 125 medical schools in the U.S., only 30 require their students to take a course in nutrition. The average nutrition training received by the average U.S. physician during four years in school is only 2.5 hours. Thus doctors in the U.S. are ill-equipped to advise their patients in minimizing foods, such as meat, that contain excessive amounts of cholesterol and are known causes of heart attack.

Heart attack is the most common cause of death in the U.S., killing one person every 45 seconds. The male meat-eater's risk of death from heart attack is 50%. The risk to men who eats no meat is 15%. Reducing one's consumption of meat, dairy and eggs by 10% reduces the risk of heart attack by 10%. Completely eliminating these products from one's diet reduces the risk of heart attack by 90%.

The average cholesterol consumption of a meat-centered diet is 210 milligrams per day. The chance of dying from heart disease if you are male and your blood cholesterol is 210 milligrams daily is greater than 50%.

5. The Natural Resources Argument against meat-eating

The world's natural resources are being rapidly depleted as a result of meat-eating.

Raising livestock for their meat is a very inefficient way of generating food. Pound for pound, far more resources must be expended to produce meat than to produce grains, fruits and vegetables. For example, more than half of all water used for all purposes in the U.S. is consumed in livestock production. The amount of water used in production of the average cow is sufficient to float a destroyer (a large naval ship). While 25 gallons of water are needed to produce a pound of wheat, 5,000 gallons are needed to produce a pound of California beef. That same 5,000 gallons of water can produce 200 pounds of wheat. If this water cost were not subsidized by the government, the cheapest hamburger meat would cost more than $35 per pound.

Meat-eating is devouring oil reserves at an alarming rate. It takes nearly 78 calories of fossil fuel (oil, natural gas, etc.) energy to produce one calory of beef protein and only 2 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calory of soybean. If every human ate a meat-centered diet, the world's known oil reserves would last a mere 13 years. They would last 260 years if humans stopped eating meat altogether. That is 20 times longer, giving humanity ample time to develop alternative energy sources.

Thirty-three percent of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by the U.S. are devoted to the production of livestock, as compared with 2% to produce a complete vegetarian diet.

6. The Antibiotic Argument against meat-eating

Here are facts showing the dangers of eating meat because of the large amounts of antibiotics fed to livestock to control staphylococci (commonly called staph infections), which are becoming immune to these drugs at an alarming rate.

The animals that are being raised for meat in the United States are diseased. The livestock industry attempts to control this disease by feeding the animals antibiotics. Huge quantities of drugs go for this purpose. Of all antibiotics used in the U.S., 55% are fed to livestock.

But this is only partially effective because the bacteria that cause disease are becoming immune to the antibiotics. The percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin, for example, has grown from 13% in 1960 to 91% in 1988. These antibiotics and-or the bacteria they are intended to destroy reside in the meat that goes to market.

It is not healthy for humans to consume this meat. The response of the European Economic Community to the routine feeding of antibiotics to U.S. livestock was to ban the importation of U.S. meat. European buyers do not want to expose consumers to this serious health hazard. By comparison, U.S. meat and pharmaceutical industries gave their full and complete support to the routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock, turning a blind eye to the threat of disease to the consumer.

7. The Pesticide Argument against meat-eating

Unknown to most meat-eaters, U.S.-produced meat contains dangerously high quantities of deadly pesticides.

The common belief is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture protects consumers' health through regular and thorough meat inspection. In reality, fewer than one out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical residues.

That these chemicals are indeed ingested by the meat-eater is proven by the following facts:

  • Ninety-nine percent of U.S. mother's milk contains significant levels of DDT. In stark contrast, only 8% of U.S. vegetarian mother's milk containing significant levels of DDT. This shows that the primary source of DDT is the meat ingested by the mothers.

  • Contamination of breast milk due to chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in animal products found in meat-eating mothers versus nonmeat-eating mothers is 35 times higher.

  • The amount of the pesticide Dieldrin ingested by the average breast-fed American infant is 9 times the permissible level.
8. The Ethical Argument against meat-eating

Many of those who have adopted a vegetarian diet have done so because of the ethical argument, either from reading about or personally experiencing what goes on daily at any one of the thousands of slaughterhouses in the U.S. and other countries, where animals suffer the cruel process of forced confinement, manipulation and violent death. Their pain and terror is beyond calculation.

The slaughterhouse is the final stop for animals raised for their flesh. These ghastly places, while little known to most meat-eaters, process enormous numbers of animals each years. In the U.S. alone, 660,000 animals are killed for meat every hour. A surprising quantity of meat is consumed by the meat-eater. The average percapita consumption of meat in the U.S., Canada and Australia is 200 pounds per year! The average American consumes in a 72-year lifetime approximately 11 cattle, 3 lambs and sheep, 23 hogs, 45 turkeys, 1,100 chickens and 862 pounds of fish! Bon appetite!

People who come in contact with slaughterhouses cannot help but be affected by what they see and hear. Those living nearby must daily experience the screams of terror and anger of the animals led to slaughter. Those working inside must also see and participate in the crimes of mayhem and murder. Most who choose this line of work are not on the job for long. Of all occupations in the U.S., slaughterhouse worker has the highest turnover rate. It also has the highest rate of on-the-job injury.

How to Win an Argument with a Meat Eater -Index