While there is no one single form of vegetarianism, what all forms have in common is a lifestyle that abstains from the consumption of meat, fish, and poultry. One the more moderate end lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy and egg foods and products. On the other extreme there are the vegans who do not eat or use any animal byproduct, (i.e. meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, honey, leather products…etc.). In between these two extremes are ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs but not dairy, and lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy but not eggs.
The reasons people become vegetarian are many. It could be due to religious/spiritual reasons, like me with Buddhism, or for political, health, ethical, environmental, practical, or aesthetic reasons. Here’s a brief rundown.
- Religious – The majority of Eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism) prescribe a vegetarian diet. While the Western religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam) do not advocate a vegetarian diet, one can interpret certain lines of Scripture or morals behind holy stories or prophecies as good cause to practice vegetarianism.
- Ethical – A person might abstain from eating meat since he feels it is abhorrent to take the life of any living creature.
- Political – One may abstain from eating meats on the grounds of battling globalization, food corporations, agribusiness, trade revolving around livestock and meat.
- Environmental – Since livestock needs large grazing grounds, a great deal of land would have to be cleared increasing the carbon footprint. In addition, there is always the risk of overgrazing on a particular parcel of land and the methane released by cows which all have environmental repercussions.
- Practical – Some people just don’t have the access or resources to buy and eat meat.
- Aesthetic – Some people just don’t like the taste of meat, or how it looks like, or the fact that they’re eating a dead thing
But the best and perhaps most widespread reason people become vegetarian are the health benefits. Vegetarian diets have time and again proven to be healthier and more viable than non-vegetarian diets. A vegetarian is less likely to have a high BMI, high levels of cholesterol, high levels of blood pressure, and a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, renal failure, bone loss, and dementia. The reason for the health benefits of vegetarianism is due to the omission of meats, especially non-lean red meat, which have high levels of saturated fat and carry risks of animal-human disease transmissions as well food-borne pathogens due to poor preparation.