Why I'm a Vegetarian

Edit: Since writing this article, I have become a vegan. Click here for my article on that.

On the 22nd of October 2018, I became a vegetarian — so no eating meat or fish. At the time of writing it has been 15 months. Initially, it was mainly because of reading a BBC article about the greenhouse gas emissions of the meat industry. I had next to no idea the amount of pollution that eating meat was causing; I hadn't considered it. A few months after becoming a vegetarian, my eyes opened to other reasons that I also had not known about or considered — namely the short-term and long-term health benefits of not eating meat, as well as the ethical reasons. Now, after learning about all these different things, why am I a vegetarian?

The Environment

This was the number one reason I became vegetarian originally. Beef and lamb are by the two worst foods for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions; any plant-based food isn't anywhere near as bad. The emissions of all the transport needed to move grain to the animal farms and to move manure out compound this effect. The meat industry causes about the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as all ships, trucks, planes and cars combined — it's quite staggering. If you want to see the estimated carbon footprint of various foods in your diet, check this out.

Another point is the land and water usage. The amount of land required to grow all the feed for livestock is enormous, and only around 3% of the calories in the feed end up as meat output. To produce 1kg of steak, a cow needs to eat up to 25kg of feed and uses up to 15,000 litres of water — it's just ridiculous. The need for land to grow feed on and to raise livestock is a real issue because it causes lots of deforestation, which further compounds the problem.

Anti-microbial resistance is also a big issue. Farmers feed their healthy livestock tons of antibiotics so that they don't catch diseases — to preserve profit. This accelerates antibiotic resistance, one of the biggest threats to global health today — the more antibiotics given to livestock, the more diseases that become drug-resistant. As a meat-eater, you could say that this isn't your fault — it's much easier to blame the farmers for it. The farmers give their livestock antibiotics because it helps keep them in business and keeps them competitive. Until policymakers limit it (which they can only do to a certain extent, and is dependent on other countries doing the same), it's your consumption of meat that is fuelling this problem.


Being vegetarian has the benefit of simply eating more greens. You've probably heard of the '5-a-day' servings of fruit and veg recommendation. As a veggie, you end up eating more fruit and vegetables, so you end up being slightly healthier in general.

Processed meats (e.g. bacon, sausages, ham, salami, etc.) and red meat are also known to be bad for long-term health in multiple areas. The World Health Organisation classifies the consumption of processed meat as a 'known carcinogen' (something that is known to cause cancer), similar to tobacco and asbestos. The risk of getting cancer from processed meat is much less than smoking, especially if you don't eat much of it — so don't worry too much, it's just something to keep in mind.

Being vegetarian is also strongly associated with a lower risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world. However, vegetarianism is associated with a higher risk of stroke. It turns out the decrease in the risk of heart disease is much bigger than the increase in the risk of stroke, so it's a win for veggies here.

There's also an organisation called the 'Blue Zones Project', which seeks to find places in the world where life expectancy is significantly higher than other places in the world, so-called 'Blue Zones' — places like Sardinia, Italy; Icaria, Greece; and Okinawa, Japan. The project looks to try and find reasons for the longer lifespan in these areas. Some of the parts of lifestyle found to be beneficial are regular physical activity, low stress, less smoking, more social engagement, and a primarily plant-based diet. It's worth a look into if you want to learn more about longevity.

The Reason You've Been Waiting For

I haven't brought up ethical reasons yet, and that's a whole other story. Initially, when I became vegetarian, I wasn't too bothered about the ethical implications of eating meat — though, over time, I started to wake up to this substantial moral issue. The issue isn't killing animals, if you hunt down an animal and shoot it for its meat, then that sounds quite reasonable to me.

The main issue is the mass imprisonment and enslavement of almost entire species of animals. Keeping animals trapped in heavily confined spaces, with little room to breathe and possibly never to see the sun is horrendous. Feeding them with excessive amounts of food until they're big enough to be killed for their meat, and breeding them so that future generations produce even more meat. Chickens have been bred to the point where they spend most of their time lying down because their legs aren't strong enough to support their weight. Even if you claim only to buy free-range, organic meat — do you still check that for fast-food, takeaways, and restaurants?

If animals were able to understand what is going on, humans would appear as genocidal madmen that thrive off of suffering. Globally, humans kill around 74 billion animals a year. The scale is incredible if you haven't noticed it before.

It's these reasons why I'd never go back to being a meat-eater again. My mind doesn't see meat as food anymore; I feel like I'd rather eat cardboard than the flesh taken from a corpse. Eating fish seems much more acceptable to me, but I don't eat it because of the considerable amount of ocean plastic pollution the fishing industry produces.

Being a vegetarian does have its downsides, but I'm more than happy to put up with them, given that being a vegetarian aligns much more with my values as a person.

Edit: Since writing this article, I have become a vegan. Click here for my article that follows up on this one.