“You are what you eat”, goes a famous saying. And if that is truly
the case, then a lot of Americans would appear to be unhealthy, chemically
slabs of animal flesh. And while that is not a particularly pleasant
thought, it is nonetheless an description of the typical American omnivore
who survives on the consumption of Big Macs and steak fajitas.
But there are individuals who do not follow this American norm and
have altered their diets so that they do not consume any meat. These people
are vegetarians, and they are the new breed of healthy Americans who refuse
to poison themselves with fats, cholesterol, and the other harmful
additives that come from meat.
And while once thought to be a movement that
would never gain much momentum, it has nonetheless moved itself to the
forefront of Americans’ healthy diets.
The word vegetarian, used to describe the diets of people who do
not consume animal flesh, was not used until around the mid-1800s. The
however, dates back much further. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras,
considered by many to be the father of Vegetarianism Essay, encouraged a non-meat
followers as a diet that was the most natural and healthful (Messina 3).
A vegetarian diet excludes the consumption of meat, and can be
exercised by people for a number of reasons. The largest majority of
individuals chose vegetarianism for health related reasons.
someone with anulcer might be prescribed a strict diet of vegetables in
order to promote the healing process. Or someone with a dangerously high
level of cholesterol might be advised to follow a vegetarian diet to lower
his or her fat and cholesterol intake.
The immorality of consuming animal flesh is another argument touted
by a smaller group of vegetarians. R.G. Frey describes this moral argument
for vegetarianism and the effect that meat eating might have on the
Some people have come to believe and fear that, in the
suffering and killing which occurs in commercial farming, we
demean ourselves, coarsen our sensitivities, dull our
feelings of sympathy with our fellow creatures, and so
begin the descent down the slippery slope of torture and death, to a
point where it becomes easier for us to contemplate and
carry out the torture and killing of human beings.
This moral argument for vegetarianism is also noted by John Robbins
who states that “the suffering these animals undergo has become so extreme
from these creatures is to partake unknowingly of the abject misery that
But whatever the reasons behind a person’s choice to be a
vegetarian, it is important to understand the different diets that
individual vegetarians can choose. In thewidest sense of the word, a
vegetarian diet is a diet that is madeup of grains, vegetables and fruit,
but does not include any animal flesh, such as fish, pork, poultry, or
beef. But beyond these standards, there are many variations of diet that
occur within the world of vegetarianism.
The first, and most prominent, category of vegetarianism is a
lacto-ovo vegetarian. Mark Messina describes a lact-ovo diet as “..
vegetarian diet (that)includes dairy products and eggs but no animal
consumption of animal byproducts, such as milk, eggs, or honey, but there
is no consumption of animal flesh. Another variation is the
lacto-vegetarian diet that allows the
consumption of milk and other milk products, but does not include the
eggs. And like all vegetarians, these two groups do not consume fish,
Another category that vegetarians can fall into are vegans. The
vegan diet is by far the most strict of all the vegetarian diets. According
meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs”(11).
There are many other foods that
may not be acceptable to many vegans, however. Foods that involve animal
any degree are often avoided. This means that vegans can consume no foods
containing animal byproducts, such as milk, eggs, or honey. Being a vegan
often dictates an “animal friendly” lifestyle that, aside from not eating
anything that came from an animal, also abstains from buying or using
products that were tested on animals or are made from animal hairs or skin,
such as leather shoes or belts (Messina 11).
A common misconception of vegetarians is that they are all a bunch
of skinny, malnourished idealists who live on plants and soy milk. And
another, related common misconception is that a diet of meat is a diet that
Professor Irving Fisher of Yale designed a series of
tests in which he compared the strength and stamina of meat-eaters against
vegetarians, with three groups of individuals represented: .