Why do vegetarians become vegetarians?


I am not a vegetarian; however, I pursue a vegetarian-inclined diet because that is the way I am raised. I almost never eat beef – maybe once or twice a year, and my consumption of chicken (or turkey) is limited to less than a serving per day. 

I attempted to be a vegetarian (several times in different countries); however, the attempts always fail. I worried about not having a balance diet, and I felt that certain countries or cities tended not to be very much vegetarian-friendly. 
Since I fail to become a vegetarian, I wonder what incentives do vegetarians have in order to pursue this diet?
The results of a survey revealed that the top reasons/incentives for being a vegetarian include:
1. Animal Welfare
2. Environmental Concerns
3. Incentives to Improve overall health [Read More]
Animal Welfare
Predator-prey relationship exists naturally, and denying such relationship is thus denying the fundamental mechanisms of nature – natural selection and evolution. Therefore, vegetarians who concern about the “killing” of animals in fact concern about the killing of a certain group of animal. The fundamental moral problems is thus arisen.
Is it wrong in principle to raise and kill animals so that human beings can eat them?
Many vegetarians would argue that an animal raised for food is being used by others rather than being respected for itself. In other words, its existence has no meaning but to be killed and eaten by human beings. Since meat is not required for our survival, many vegetarians think that it is unethical to eat meat; they believe that eating meat sacrifices the animals’ fundamental interest – survival – for our trivial desire – taste. [Read More]
Environmental Concerns 
Much natural resources, such as water, is used to raise animals for consumption
“Although statistics vary, it is safe to say that it takes at least three times the amount of water to feed a meat eater compared with that used to feed a vegan.” [Quote]
In industrialized agriculture, arable land has to be irrigated to increase crop yields. Moreover, much of the land is devoted to growing feed crops for livestock. The manure of livestock is excellent natural fertilizer; however, when animals are raised in confined areas for meat, their nitrogen-rich waste become sources of pollutants that contaminate water resources. Moreover, while vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, livestock contributes to the emission of methane, which is 20 times more potent to warm up the earth than carbon dioxide. Methane is produced by bacteria in the stomachs of cattle and sheep. Many believe that meat eating is responsible for at least a third of all biological methane emissions. [Read More]
Incentives to Improve overall health
Many vegetarians (and vegetarian-inclined people) believe that their diets are closely connected to lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Much research has been dedicated to find the connection from vegetarian diet and (chronic) disease development. There are scientists claiming that vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer than omnivores, possibly because vegetarians consume more antioxidants that present in fruit and vegetables.
However, it is unfair to think that omnivore’s diet is less healthy than a vegetarian diet. As long as the meat intake is limited in a healthy range and adequate amount of fruit and vegetables are consumed, an omnivore’s diet can have all the benefits that a vegetarian diet provides. [Read More]
After learning about the incentives of becoming a vegetarian, I think about my family’s diet. My dad is a meat-lover; however, his meat intake reduces significantly in recent years. He happened to see a car accident of the truck of a farm with full load of pigs, and what he saw made him feel bad with eating animals. His concern of animal welfare reduces his consumption of meat. Moreover, he wants to improve his health and prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases, and that is another reason why he limits meat intake.
On the other hand, my mom is a vegetable-lover. Her family raised pigs when she was little. She told me that grandma only killed a pig for food during lunar new year and she always prayed for the pig while it was still alive. Moreover, my mom believes that vegetables and fruits are healthy while meat is not. Though I have tried to ask her to collect more information, her belief would not change.
You can see that concerns for animal welfare and incentives for health improvement are forces that drive my parents to consume mainly vegetables. For me, environmental concern is a dominant incentive. Although I do not see myself become a vegetarian anytime soon, I am motivated to consume less meat and in return, save energies. Moreover, I am motivated to put effort in purchasing post-organic meat (like those produced in Polyface) as long as I get the chance to. I believe that what our diets can make a difference, and I encourage you to take the initiative.
That all being said, I will end this rather long post with a quote.

“If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” [Quote]


5 thoughts on “Why do vegetarians become vegetarians?

  1. It surprises me that animal welfare is the number one reason for people to go vegetarian. It shocks me because I know that millions of animals will still be abused no matter how much we try to cut back on meat. It may allow a person to feel guilt-free from such immoral treatment, but in practicality I don’t think it makes a big difference to the meat-industry. I personally choose to eat less meat for my health. As for the environmental concerns, such as using up gas and water for transportation and processing, I’m beginning to think that the more important factor would be purchasing from local or organic farms. The source of our foods is just as important as the quantity that we consume.

    • I definitely agree with your point! Purchasing from local farms encourages producer/farmer-customer relationship, which (should) be the most liable regulation in terms of food security; the practice also saves resources and energy, which is definitely another plus.

  2. I have met many vegetarians at UCLA and I always ask them why did they become a vegetarian, and it always has to do with a traumatic experience that they took part in that made them become vegetarian. For instance my roommate is a vegetarian now, but she wasn’t a vegetarian until her sophomore year in high school. She said that in her sophomore year she went out on a fishing boat with her class and they watched how the company obtained their fish. She didn’t understand how the workers could be so impartial to the feelings of the suffering fish that she decided that she wouldn’t eat meat any longer so one less animal could not endure the suffering that she saw. I see where she is coming from, but I personally do not think that I could ever become a vegetarian. Also I don’t think that becoming a vegetarian will change the amount of animals who suffer extreme conditions just for their meat. Being a vegetarian is a moral code that some people have and they will abide by that code because they do not want to eat something that was put through suffering for its meat consumption.

  3. This a very good breakdown of the main reasons for being vegetarian!
    I agree with Kelly in that it is a little surprising that SO MANY people become vegetarian because of the guilt they feel for the animals. Personally I agree that there is something morally twisted about simply raising an animal for the sole purpose of our consumption. I feel like in this way we are disrespecting the life of the animal and stripping it of its natural identity to the point where its almost no longer an animal but just flesh or “beef”. I remember reading an article somewhere where an ambitious pro vegetarian author was comparing the way we raise animals for slaughter to the way Hitler abused Jewish people during the Holocaust. Obviously this is an EXTREME way of putting the matter into perspective but it is definitely interesting.

    Good Post!

  4. I am also trying to be a vegetarian. I used to consume a lot of meat, and chicken is my favorite. But from last year, I decided to be a vegetarian, because I want to be healthy and I think that eating vegetables helps me to lost weight. Ever since I knew that eating less meat could help to protect the environment and reduce my carbon footprint, I am more determined to be a vegetarian.

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