Vegetarian and vegan diets are rapidly increasing in the United States

Sydney Sides| Assistant Lifestyles Editor

Vegetarian and vegan diets are rapidly increasing in popularity across the United States. Decreasing the amount of meat consumed is also becoming a prevalent trend for those trying to lose weight or create a healthier diet.

A Harris Interactive Study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group revealed that approximately five percent of the U.S. have adopted vegetarian diets. Nearly half of these individuals follow vegan diets.

These numbers are increasing rapidly. This same study also found that the one percent of the U.S. that identified as vegan in 2009, increased to 2.5 percent in 2012. 

Why are people leaning toward more plant-based dieting? The meat industry in America is a disputatious topic of conversation. It has been described as horrible, inhumane, and disgusting.

The first two articles that result from a quick internet search of “the meat industry” produce two contradicting websites.

The first website is titled “The Meat Industry at a Glance,” the second, “ | The Website the Meat Industry Doesn’t Want You To See.”

The first site documents the 318 million Americans fed by the industry. It explains the amount of meat that is processed and produced each year, the economic sustainability of the industry, and the essential nutrients that the human body receives from the consumption of meat.

The next site has a video portraying slaughterhouses and the animal abuse that occurs behind the scenes in the meat industry.

Paul McCartney narrates the video, examining the cruelties of the industry. During the video, McCartney said, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

A large segment of the video focuses on the treatment of pigs.

Pigs have “cognitive abilities beyond those of three-year-old children,” said McCartney.

“Many will go insane from the stress, abuse and lack of mental stimulation.”

UNC-Wilmington student, Casey Kenny, was vegetarian for several years but recently reverted to eating meat.

“I don’t think it’s cruel to eat animals,” said Kenny, “but the way that we handle and slaughter them is not respectful at all. I think that we should respect our food more.”

The two opposing groups see the issue from different perspectives. One speaks of the effect the industry has on the country, while the other focuses on the industry itself.

However, the increasing millions of Americans adopting vegetarian and vegan diets speak of the underlying issues with the meat industry and the necessary measures to improve it.

Health issues that result from heavy consumption of meat products and from the questionable substances used in foods is another issue that nutritionists and scientists have been researching for years.

Recent UNCW graduate, Lizzie Warfield, follows a pescatarian diet, meaning she consumes fish but not meat. “I don’t believe that we aren’t meant to eat animals at times,” said Warfield, “but the human race definitely overestimates how much animal meat we should be eating.”

According to an article written by author David Robinson Simon for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “Americans eat more meat per person than any other people on Earth, and we’re paying the price in doctor bills.”

“Hundreds of clinical studies in the past several decades show that consumption of meat and dairy products,” said Robinson, “especially at the high levels seen in this country, can cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other illnesses.”

Promotion of the high-volume consumption of meat in the U.S. may need to be reexamined. There is a high number of Americans who are unaware of the issues within the meat industry. Vegetarian and vegan diets are options for people to counter the so-called “inhumane” procedures used against animals in the U.S. 

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