Why I Became a Vegetarian (And Why We Should All Eat Less Meat)


Recently, the German Minister banned meat at official functions (HuffPo).  Additionally, Portugal just passed a law which requires public cafeterias to offer at least one vegan option, applying to prisons, schools, universities, hospitals and other public buildings (Care2). Some people may be asking, ‘Why all this fuss?,’ but as we approach the People’s Climate March this Saturday Apr 29th (of which I was a participant in 2014) and on the coattails of this year’s Earth Day, there are many pressing reasons why what we eat is a major factor in our health and the health of the world along with all of its biodiversity. 

People today are eating more and more meat, and it is becoming more and more of a problem.  In countries where people are enjoying greater wealth, meats on the table can be a symbol of prosperity. Yet, few people pause to consider the harmful consequences of heavy meat eating. Years ago, that great Hungarian philosopher of science, Ervin László, said that heavy meat eating was a crime against the future of humanity. How far sighted was that remark.

cows-1209635_960_720There are three main reasons why we should eat less  – or preferably no – meat. Firstly, so that we may eliminate factory farms. Secondly, to reduce the shocking damage the meat production industry inflicts on the environment and its contribution to climate change (The Guardian). And finally, to improve human health.

Most people do not realize the unspeakable cruelty suffered by animals on our factory farms. And some who know, do not really care.  People have said to me that, after all, the animals are bred for food – as though this means that they are no longer sentient beings. Others beg me not to tell them about it, as they love animals and are very sensitive – so they can go on eating pigs and cows without feeling guilt. I stopped eating meat some 50 years ago when I looked at the pork chop on my plate and thought: this represents fear, pain, death.  That did it, and I became an instant vegetarian. Other people will eat only the flesh of free range animals that live on farms, where they are well treated and know a quick death.

When I stopped eating meat I immediately felt better, lighter.  Many people have told me the same. The adverse effects of too much red meat are well known (Harvard), and meat consumption certainly plays a role in the global rise in obesity (Science Daily).  In addition some of the hormones and other supplements fed to animals to increase growth rate may be passed on to us (Washington Post). Antibiotics are now supplied on a regular basis just to keep animals alive in the crowded and depressing conditions in the factory farms. Inevitably bacteria are building up resistance, and people have already died from simple infections that refused to respond to the antibiotics meant to cure them (Consumers Union).

150925153610-food-climate-chart-two-degrees-exlarge-169The effect of our modern meat production on the environment is truly terrifying. For one thing, huge areas of forest are cut down to grow the grain to feed the billions of animals we eat each year, or to provide grazing (Mongabay). This releases CO2 into the atmosphere, the main component of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. The droughts caused by climate change that are getting worse in sub Saharan Africa are quickly reducing traditional grazing areas to dusty, eroding deserts (Unicef). Huge amounts of water are wasted to transform vegetable protein into animal protein (TIME). Surface water is shrinking, and underground aquifers are shrinking too, (EPA) and becoming polluted, often from the runoff from agricultural chemicals or the “lagoons” of animal waste produced by the animals themselves. Then we must consider the large quantity of methane produced by the digestive systems of the animals, especially cows – a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 (EPA). And finally, the vast amounts of fossil fuels used to keep the whole meat producing industry operational is adding enormously to the greenhouse gases (One Greet Planet).

For all of these reasons, and more, I chose to become a vegetarian all those years ago. I continue to ask people to consider what this choice really means on a moral and practical level for animals and the environment. It is the choice to change our individual lives, which will in turn have enormous benefits for all of humanity and all of the other living creatures we share our home with.

Join Dr. Jane Goodall & the Jane Goodall Institute in declaring #IEatMeatLess!#IEATMEATLESS PLEDGE
Don’t forget to take the

#IEatMeatLessPledge: janegoodall.org/ieatmeatless_pledge and join us by reducing your meat consumption, and thereby reducing the negative impact food choices have on the environment, and other humans and animals, both locally and worldwide.

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“You are what you don’t eat: eat less meat and join Dr. Jane Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute in saying #IEatMeatLess for people, other animals and the environment! janegoodall.org/ieatmeatless_pledge @janegoodallinst”


About Author

Jane Goodall is a passionate road warrior, traveling nearly 300 days each year on a worldwide speaking tour to raise awareness, inspire change, and encourage each of us to do our part in making the world a better place. Jane's love for animals started at a young age and in July of 1960, at the age of 26, she followed her dreams and traveled from England to what is now Tanzania, to bravely enter the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars, but with her unyielding patience and optimism, she won the trust of the Gombe chimpanzees, and opened a window into their lives for all to see. Jane's studies has taught humanity one of the most important lessons - that we humans are not the only beings on this planet with personalities, minds capable of thinking and above all, emotions. Her findings shook the scientific community and made us re-evaluate what it means to be human.

  • Dario

    I respect Jane Goodall. I think she is a brilliant woman and has done so much for animal conservation. However I can’t wrap my head around why she chose to be vegetarian and not vegan? Why not stop ALL animal cruelty by going vegan? Surely she is an intelligent person.

    • Michael Yiasemides

      Dario, as a fellow vegan I shared your concern in the past. However, I have watched videos where Jane Goodall explained that she would be vegan if she weren’t travelling 300 days a year. I believe she said that it was too difficult to ensure she has a healthy diet when being vegan and travelling. I think she is one of the few people where being vegetarian but not vegan is ethical, because she probably does a lot more good for animals, environment, and people through her travelling.

      I should clarify that from my understanding a wholefood plant-based vegan diet is healthier than a vegetarian diet. It’s just that the wholefood plant-based foods just aren’t always available for Jane Goodall when she is travelling.

      • LiberalinAkron

        Maybe someone should explain to Jane that she could still be Vegan while traveling within the modern world where grocery stores now carry produce. This would give her more credibility when she talks to groups about the environment!

      • chickenadvocate

        For years and years I’ve heard it said by some animal advocates that it’s “so hard” to eat vegan when traveling. In my advocacy work since the 1980s, I’ve traveled to all parts of the United States (albeit not the world) and been able to locate restaurants able to provide good animal-free meals – certainly good enough compared to eating animal products instead. It’s hard to believe that a celebrity global traveler like Jane Goodall could not eat animal-free in the places she visits. Travelers who need a particular accommodation pre-arrange the accommodation all the time. Why should animal-free eating be any different? For an animal rights advocate, animal-free food is High Priority. Also, where does it say that Goodall eats only “wholefood plant-based foods” wherever she is? Really? And unless she’s vegan, she’s eating egg and dairy products as a matter of choice rather than necessity whether in Temperanceville Virginia or Thailand Just saying . . .

  • chickenadvocate

    Don’t know why my comment (unfortunately a few months late) has not appeared, so I removed the link to our organization in case it is preventing the comment from being posted. Resubmitting:

    Jane says: “Other people will eat only the flesh of free range animals that live on farms, where they are well treated and know a quick death.” This statement does not portray the reality of so-called free range farms at all. Animals on some of these farms are at best better treated than they are on standard industrial farms, but that does not mean they are treated well. As for the “quick death” – this is a mere rhetorical trope with no connection to animal slaughter at any time or any place.

    Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns

  • rodentx2

    Jane, I went vegetarian 44 years ago for the animals. In 2001 I went vegan, because female cattle and hens are kept alive to be sexually exploited to produce eggs and milk. Mother cows who’ve had their babies taken from them, over and over and over, suffer emotional distress from the separation, as do the calves. When the cows and the hens are “spent” from constant exploitation, they are sent to be killed off. Male chicks are ground up alive by the egg industry because they don’t produce eggs. No “farmed” animals is EVER spared when they can no longer produce a product. And that goes for ALL the “traditional,” “free-range,” “grass-fed,” “cage-free” systems of animal exploitation. Industrial farming is traditional farming ON SUPER STEROIDS.

    Animals exploited on “free-range” farms are like American workers, who think they are living free, but in reality they are wage slaves to the same political and economic system that exploits female cattle and hens.