Last updated on: 2/25/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

Pro & Con Quotes: Should People Become Vegetarian?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The American Heart Association in an article accessed on Feb. 15, 2021, “How Does Plant-Forward (Plant-Based) Eating Benefit Your Health?,” available at heart.org, stated:

“Figuring out how to manage these pros and cons takes a little homework. First, let’s define the terms:

    • A vegan diet is entirely plant-based. It excludes meat, fish, dairy and eggs – basically anything that comes from an animal.
    • Vegetarians also eat a plant-based diet, but their menu may include dairy and eggs.
    • A flexitarian is a vegetarian that sometimes indulges in meat or fish but mostly sticks to plant foods.
    • Plant-forward is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them. Meat may be included but it’s usually not the main feature of the meal…

    Just make sure you’re not replacing meat with a bunch of highly processed meat substitutes or ‘vegan junk food.’ You know, the French fry diet! The key is adding high-quality, nutrient-dense plant-based foods. In fact, a recent study showed that eating primarily high-quality plant foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts) was associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases than eating primarily lower-quality plant foods (such as fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes and sweets). The researchers concluded that even if you’ve eaten a poor diet for half your life, adding more healthy plant foods as an adult can help reduce your risk.”

Feb. 15, 2021

The US National Library of Medicine, in a Feb. 2, 2021 page, “Vegetarian Diet,” available at medlineplus.gov, stated:

“A vegetarian diet focuses on plants for food. These include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, seeds and nuts. There is no single type of vegetarian diet. Instead, vegetarian eating patterns usually fall into the following groups:

  • The vegan diet, which excludes all meat and animal products
  • The lacto vegetarian diet, which includes plant foods plus dairy products
  • The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which includes both dairy products and eggs

People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need. However, they must be careful to eat a wide variety of foods to meet their nutritional needs. Nutrients vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.”

Feb. 2, 2021

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated the following in their Jan. 31, 2011 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,” available at www.cnpp.usda.gov:

“In prospective studies of adults, compared to non-vegetarian eating patterns, vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes—lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure.

On average, vegetarians consume a lower proportion of calories from fat (particularly saturated fatty acids); fewer overall calories; and more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C than do non-vegetarians. Vegetarians generally have a lower body mass index. These characteristics and other lifestyle factors associated with a vegetarian diet may contribute to the positive health outcomes that have been identified among vegetarians…

A healthy eating pattern focuses on nutrient-dense foods—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds that are prepared without added solid fats, sugars, starches, and sodium…

The USDA Food Patterns allow for additional flexibility in choices through their adaptations for vegetarians—a vegan pattern that contains only plant foods and a lacto-ovo vegetarian pattern that includes milk and milk products and eggs.”

[Editor’s Note: In the 2015-2020 edition of the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the USDA and HHS introduced a new “Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern,” alongside their “Healthy US-Style Eating Pattern” and their “Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern.” That section was carried into the 2020-2025 edition.]

Jan. 31, 2011 - US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

PRO (yes)

Pro 1

Natalie Parletta, PhD, nutritionist, in a Mar. 6, 2019 article, “Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthier? Five Experts Weigh In,” available at qz.com, stated:

“Ample evidence suggests vegetarians live longer and have lower rates of chronic diseases—in part because of their diet and possibly also because people who choose vegetarian diets may be more health conscious anyway. Plant foods, including fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, deliver abundant fiber, nutrients, and polyphenols that are essential for a healthy body and mind.

For vegetarians—and particularly vegans—it’s important to eat a varied and well-balanced diet, making sure to get enough of certain nutrients such as omega-3 and vitamin B12.
More recently, scientists are also promoting the benefits of plant-based diets to reduce our footprint on the planet: to improve environmental sustainability and feed our growing population. Then there’s the ethical concerns about animal welfare. Plant-based diets—whether totally vegetarian or dominated by plant foods—are a win-win-win for people, animals, and the planet.”

Mar. 6, 2019

Pro 2

Amelia Harray, PhD, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, in a Mar. 6, 2019 article, “Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthier? Five Experts Weigh In,” available at qz.com, stated:

“Vegetarian eating patterns have been associated with lower risk of premature death, while red and processed meats increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Australian diets are typically high in meat and low in vegetables and legumes.

Plant-based alternatives to meat, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu, have similar distinguishing nutrients (iron, protein, zinc), while being naturally lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber. These meat-free options are widely available, affordable, and becoming more socially acceptable in this country.

A recent article strengthened the importance of people considering the impact of their food choices on the environment, not just health. In most climates and settings, the production of meat and dairy foods has more of a negative environmental impact than plant-based foods. Even without following a strict vegetarian diet, frequently replacing meat meals with plant-based alternatives can benefit our health and that of the environment.”

Mar. 6, 2019

Pro 3

Malcolm Forbes, doctor, in a Mar. 6, 2019 article, “Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthier? Five Experts Weigh In,” available at qz.com, stated:

“A balanced vegetarian diet is healthier than the current diet of most Australians. There is a large body of evidence that has consistently demonstrated vegetarians enjoy lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. A vegetarian Mediterranean diet may also be associated with lower rates of depression, however this relationship is less clear.

I regularly enquire about the diet of my patients and recommend an increase in plant-based foods. While a vegetarian diet is no panacea, it is one easy step to reduce a patient’s risk of lifestyle diseases.”

Mar. 6, 2019

Pro 4

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine stated the following in their article “Vegetarian Foods: Powerful Tools for Health,” available at www.pcrm.org (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“A vegetarian menu is a powerful and pleasurable way to achieve good health…

Vegetarians have much lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters, and heart disease is less common in vegetarians…

An impressive number of studies, dating back to the early 1920s, show that vegetarians have lower blood pressure than nonvegetarians…

The latest studies on diabetes show that a vegetarian diet high in complex carbohydrates and fiber (which are found only in plant foods) and low in fat is the best dietary prescription for controlling and preventing diabetes…

A vegetarian diet helps prevent cancer. Studies of vegetarians show that death rates from cancer are only about one-half to three-quarters of the general population’s death rates…

Vegetarians are less likely to form either kidney stones or gallstones. In addition, vegetarians may also be at lower risk for osteoporosis because they eat little or no animal protein…

It’s easy to plan vegetarian diets that meet all your nutrient needs.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Pro 5

The North American Vegetarian Society stated the following in its article “Vegetarian FAQ,” available at www.navs-online.org (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“[C]ompletely eliminating meat and animal products reaps the greatest health benefits. Although different meats have varying amounts of fat, they all contain about the same amount of cholesterol. In addition, diets high in animal protein are associated with high blood cholesterol, thereby raising the risk of heart disease…

All animal products contain considerably more concentrated levels of pesticide residue than either vegetables or grains. Like red meat, poultry and fish contain no beneficial carbohydrates, fiber, or phytochemicals…

Fish contain substantially more heavy metals (such as lead, mercury, and cadmium) and industrial pollutants (such PCBs, DDT and dioxins) than land animals…

In the United States alone, about 10 billion animals are killed each year to be turned into meat. This translates into about 34 animals per person that are needlessly killed each year to appease the human appetite… Conditions on factory farms and at slaughterhouses are deplorable. Most farm animals live in cramped, filthy quarters that do not allow for even the most basic needs such as fresh air, sunshine, sanitary conditions, unrestrained movement, natural mating, suckling offspring, or developing normal social behaviors…

There is a common misconception that a vegetarians have a limited array of food choices. Just the opposite is true. Vegetarians commonly eat a wider variety of foods than most meat eaters.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - The North American Vegetarian Society

Pro 6

Paul McCartney, singer, songwriter, and vegetarian activist, stated the following in a video titled “Glass Walls,” available at www.meat.org (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“I’ve often said, If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian…

Animals raised on modern factory farms and killed in slaughterhouses endure almost unimaginable suffering, I hope that once you see the routine cruelty involved in raising, transporting, and killing animals for food, you’ll join the millions of people who’ve decided to leave meat off their plates for good…

Modern meat production is responsible for recent outbreaks of Mad Cow Disease, SARS, Bird Flu, and other diseases, and animal products are also often contaminated with a bacterial stew…

The consumption of animal flesh, all of which is riddled with fat and chloresterol, is also a prime contributor to today’s epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and cancer…

If we care about the environment, cutting meat out of our diet is the most important action we can take. It is only prejudice that allows anyone to think there is a difference between abusing a cat and abusing a chicken, or abusing a dog and abusing a pig. Suffering is suffering no matter how you slice it.

Eating meat is bad for our health, it is bad for the environment, and it directly supports appalling cruelty to animals.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - Paul McCartney

Pro 7

Mike Ness, lead singer and guitarist for the band Social Distortion, stated the following during a public service announcement recorded for PETA “Meat’s Not Green,” available at www.peta.org (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“The more I got educated about cruelty and inhumane treatment, then it was really a no brainer [to become a vegetarian].  You know, no one would barbeque their family dog. You know, why is a cow or a pig different, or a chicken different.  They are just as much of a gentle animal as a dog or a cat…

I just feel stronger, faster, cleaner and healthier… I think hunting is for sissys.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - Mike Ness

Pro 8

James Cameron, director, screenwriter, and producer, in a June 2016 interview with Adrian Czarny for the James Cameron Online fansite, available from this site under the title “Q&A with James Cameron,” stated:

“The conclusions are absolutely irrefutable – meat and dairy are not only un-necessary, they are the major contributors to the diseases of affluence plaguing developed nations – obesity, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, several major cancers, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, erectile dysfunction and others too numerous to list. And when I say meat, I’m talking about ALL ANIMAL MUSCLE TISSUE – fish, shrimp, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb – not just beef.”

June 2016 - James Cameron

Pro 9

Navneet Kumar Kaushik, Demonstrator at the Department of Physiology at the Pt. B.D. Sharma University of Health Sciences (India), et al., in a Mar. 2015 article titled “Vegetarian Diets: Health Benefits and Associated Risks,” for the International Archives of Integrated Medicine journal, available from the Index Medicus for South-East Asia Region (IMSEAR) website, wrote:

“A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that wholesome vegetarian diets offer distinct advantages compared to diets containing meat and other foods of animal origin…

It has been shown that properly applied vegetarian diet is the most effective way of reducing body mass (expressed as BMI), improving the plasma lipid profile and in decreasing the incidence of high arterial blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome and arteriosclerosis. In addition, improved insulin sensitivity together with lower rates of diabetes and cancer has been observed… on balance it can be reasonably concluded that the beneficial effects of a vegetarian diet significantly, by far, outweigh the adverse ones.”

Mar. 2015 - Navneet Kumar Kaushik

CON (no)

Con 1

Katherine Livingstone, PhD, NHMRC Emerging Leadership fellow at Deakin University, in a Mar. 6, 2019 article, “Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthier? Five Experts Weigh In,” available at qz.com, stated:

“Eating small amounts of lean meats and reduced-fat dairy products can be consistent with good health. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends 1-3 serves of lean meats, poultry, and fish, and alternatives such as beans and legumes, each day. Meats are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Processed meats should be limited as they are high in added salt and saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease.

A plant-based diet is high in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains and low in processed foods, but can still include small amounts of lean meats and reduced-fat dairy products. Plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are linked with lower risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Eating a plant-based diet is good for us and the planet.”

Mar. 6, 2019

Con 2

Josh Wilson, data journalist, in a Sep. 17, 2019 article, “Eating Some Meat Is Better for the Environment Than Going Vegetarian, New Study Finds,” available at telegraph.co.uk, summarized the findings of Brent Kim, et al. as published in the Sep. 16, 2019 Global Environmental Change article, “Country-Specific Dietary Shifts to Mitigate Climate and Water Crises”:

“A ‘flexitarian’ diet which includes one portion of meat a day has a lower carbon footprint than a vegetarian diet that includes dairy, according to a major new study…

It modeled the environmental impact of all major diets across some 140 countries and concludes that those who switch to a vegetarian diet may be doing more harm than good.

By giving up meat and supplementing their intake with dairy products such as Halloumi cheese, yogurt and crème fraîche, vegetarians are only fractionally improving their carbon footprint.

The research shows they would be better cutting down on diary products, increasing their fruit and vegetable intake and eating meat once a day for protein and energy. They call this a ‘two thirds vegan’ diet.”

Sep. 17, 2019

Con 3

Isabella Tree, author, in an Aug. 25, 2018 article, “If You Want to Save the World, Veganism Isn’t the Answer,” available at the guardian.com, stated:

“[C]alls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertiliser, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonising sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon…

So there’s a huge responsibility here: unless you’re sourcing your vegan products specifically from organic, ‘no-dig’ systems, you are actively participating in the destruction of soil biota, promoting a system that deprives other species, including small mammals, birds and reptiles, of the conditions for life, and significantly contributing to climate change…

There’s no question we should all be eating far less meat, and calls for an end to high-carbon, polluting, unethical, intensive forms of grain-fed meat production are commendable. But if your concerns as a vegan are the environment, animal welfare and your own health, then it’s no longer possible to pretend that these are all met simply by giving up meat and dairy. Counterintuitive as it may seem, adding the occasional organic, pasture-fed steak to your diet could be the right way to square the circle.”

Aug. 25, 2018

Con 4

Michael Pollan, MA, author and Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, stated the following in his article “Animal Welfare: FAQ & Useful Links,” available at the website of Michael Pollan (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“I’m not a vegetarian because I enjoy eating meat, meat is nutritious food, and I believe there are ways to eat meat that are in keeping with my environmental and ethical values. I don’t make the decision to eat meat lightly. Meat-eating has always been a messy business, shadowed by the shame of killing… Forgetting, or willed ignorance, is the preferred strategy of many beef eaters, a strategy abetted by the industry. (What grocery-store item is more silent about its origins than a shrink-wrapped steak?)…

When obtained from small farms where these animals are treated well, fed an appropriate diet, and generally allowed to express their creaturely character, I think the benefits of eating such meat outweigh the cost. A truly sustainable agriculture will involve animals, in order to complete the nutrient cycle, and those animals are going to be killed and eaten.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - Michael Pollan, MA

Con 5

Ron Schmid, ND, naturopathic physician, stated the following in his article “Recovering from Vegetarianism,” available at www.drrons.com (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“[T]he centerpiece of a truly healthy diet must be animal foods. That means a substantial portion of meat, seafood, fowl, eggs or raw dairy at just about every meal. That is how one recovers from vegetarianism and builds lasting health and strength.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - Ron Schmid, ND

Con 6

Jacky Hayward, former Editor and Community Manager at ChefsBlade.com, stated the following in her article “Why I Eat Meat (And Why You Should, Too),” available at Chef’s Blade (accessed Apr. 19, 2017):

“One of the strong arguments against eating meat is that great amount of food energy wasted every time an animal eats another animal (a 9-to-1 ratio), but in the case of cows that are grass-fed, they are eating biomass from which we cannot glean food calories. In addition, the energy to grow grass comes from the sun, which means cows are, in essence, converting the sun’s energy, through the venue of grass, into food energy that we can consume. And, importantly, grass fed beefy is mighty tasty.

And to my final reason for eating meat: It tastes good. I crave it. I am lethargic both physically and mentally without it. I also have canine teeth. Vegetarians and vegans often say that humans have evolved to a point where they don’t need to eat meat to survive. While I would be able to live without meat, my life would not be as good. Just as cows can live on corn meal rather than grass, humans can live only plants, but maybe they shouldn’t. I believe there is a biological reason I crave meat: My body needs it.”

Apr. 19, 2017 - Jacky Hayward

Con 7

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Founder and former CEO of Microsoft, in an Apr. 21, 2015 article for his blog GatesNotes, titled “Is There Enough Meat for Everyone?” wrote:

“In my late twenties I went vegetarian for a year. Some of my friends were strict non-meat-eaters, and I wanted to try it out… In the end, though, I couldn’t keep it going, and I eventually returned to my carnivorous ways.

Years later, I came to realize that it was a luxury for me to spurn meat. In most places, as people earn more money, they want to eat more meat. Brazil’s per-capita consumption has gone up fourfold since 1950. China’s nearly doubled in the 1990s. Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan have also seen big increases.

More countries are sure to follow, and that’s a good thing. Meat is a great source of high-quality proteins that help children fully develop mentally and physically. In fact part of our foundation’s health strategy involves getting more meat, dairy, and eggs into the diets of children in Africa.”

Apr. 21, 2015 - Bill Gates

Con 8

Vaclav Smil, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba (Canada), in a July 19, 2013 article for the Scientific American website titled “Should Humans Eat Meat?” wrote:

“Killing animals and eating meat have been significant components of human evolution that had a synergistic relationship with other key attributes that have made us human, with larger brains, smaller guts, bipedalism and language. Larger brains benefited from consuming high-quality proteins in meat-containing diets, and, in turn, hunting and killing of large animals, butchering of carcasses and sharing of meat have inevitably contributed to the evolution of human intelligence in general and to the development of language and of capacities for planning, cooperation and socializing in particular… [T]here is no doubt that the human digestive tract has clearly evolved for omnivory, not for purely plant-based diets. And the role of scavenging, and later hunting, in the evolution of bipedalism and the mastery of endurance running cannot be underestimated, and neither can the impact of planned, coordinated hunting on non-verbal communication and the evolution of language…

Meat consumption is a part of our evolutionary heritage; meat production has been a major component of modern food systems; carnivory should remain, within limits, an important component of a civilization that finally must learn how to maintain the integrity of its only biosphere.”

July 19, 2013 - Vaclav Smil, PhD

Con 9

Simon Fairlie, Editor of The Land magazine, stated the following in an Oct. 12, 2010 interview, “Simon Fairlie: How Eating Meat Can Save the Planet,” published in TIME magazine:

“[Y]ou can afford to eat a modest amount of dairy and meat without destructing the environment. But, of course, it is not what we eat individually – it is what we eat as a whole society that has the impact on the environment. Some vegans may continue their vegan ways. I’m arguing for meat in moderation, not to eradicate meat entirely, nor to overconsume it…

I was a vegetarian from 18 to 24 years old, and I gave up meat partly because I had misgivings about the cruelty to animals. But I began eating meat again when I moved to the [English] countryside and started keeping goats. I had to do something with the male goats. They wouldn’t produce milk or offspring, so I started eating them. At 59, I now eat meat twice a week. I still to this day have some misgivings about killing animals for food. But intellectually, I know it is the right thing to do.”

Oct. 12, 2010 - Simon Fairlie