Year of the herbivore: vegan and vegetarian diets provide benefits

Vegetarians are often asked why they do not eat meat, how they get their protein, or if they have uncontrollable urges for bacon.
Although vegetarians are a small minority of the United States—approximately five percent, or 15 million people—there are many benefits to becoming a vegetarian or vegan.
Being a vegetarian can help save the planet and delay climate change.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN), livestock is responsible for 65 percent of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
In times of growing concern over climate change, animal agriculture is a contributing factor that is steadily increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Through their waste, flatulence and other byproducts, cows produce over 150 billion gallons of methane per day.
A vegetarian’s diet not only decreases greenhouse gas emissions, but aids in water conservation.
Water scarcity is an important issue today because of the rate at which the human population is growing.
According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, around 1.2 billion people live in areas of physical scarcity and 500 million people will soon be in the same situation.
Approximately 20 to 33 percent of all freshwater consumption worldwide is due to animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91 percent of Amazon destruction. Lush rainforests are torn down to create grazing areas for cows and land to raise pigs, leading to species extinction and habitat fragmentation.
Vegetarians are healthier as well; according to a peer-reviewed 2003 Oxford University study of 37,875 healthy men and women aged 20-97, 5.4 percent of meat eaters were obese compared to three percent of vegetarians.
Animals can experience pain, stress, and fear, especially in Confined Animal Feeding Operations where animals live in filthy cramped spaces.
Pigs regularly have their tails cut off, chickens have their toenails and beaks clipped off and cows have their horns cut without painkillers.
Many are concerned over the loss of a main source of protein in their diet.
According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet can meet protein requirements and provide all the essential amino-acids (the building blocks of protein) animals and people need for optimal health.
Heavy reliance on meat is hurting the environment and people’s health but MAST students want a change.
According to a poll conducted of 100 MAST students, sixty-two percent of MAST students have considered being or want to become vegetarians or vegans. Perhaps 2016 will be the year of the vegan.