Vegetarians Celebrate US VegWeek

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Source: “Meatless in 6: The Easy 6 Week Plan to Become a Vegetarian,” youthevegetarian.blogspot.com (Apr. 22, 2013)

Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2013, marks the start of US VegWeek, a seven-day challenge to encourage people across the United States to give up meat from Apr. 22 to Apr. 28. Several legislators have taken the week-long meatless pledge, including congressional representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and David Cicilline (D-RI).

US VegWeek organizers, Compassion Over Killing, hope to raise awareness about the benefits of vegetarianism. They argue that “animal agriculture is a leading cause of biodiversity loss, resource depletion, pollution, and global warming.” A 2006 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that animal agriculture generates 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Famous vegetarians include Ellen DeGeneres (vegan), Bill Clinton (vegan), Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin.

Celebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain, host of the television show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, criticized the vegetarian diet in his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential, stating: “To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demiglace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.  Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has stated that “vegetarian diets are consistent with the dietary guidelines for Americans and can meet the recommended dietary allowances for nutrients.”

However, according to the Center for Consumer Freedom, “anti-meat zealots, usually driven by an animal rights agenda, are disseminating shoddy science in an effort to drive consumers toward a meatless diet… Anti-meat activists like to claim that a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier than one that includes a wider range of foods. But research shows that the opposite is true.” 

A 2012 Gallup poll found that approximately 5% of Americans (15,695,702 people) considered themselves to be vegetarian, and 2% (6,278,281 people) considered themselves to be vegan. 

Sources:

American Dietetic Association, “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June 2009

Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, 2000

Center for Consumer Freedom, “Meat: What’s the Beef with Meat?,” www.consumerfreedom.com (accessed Apr. 22, 2013)

Frank Newport, “In US, 5% Consider Themselves Vegetarians,” www.gallup.com, July 26, 2012

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options,” www.fao.org, Nov. 29, 2006

US VegWeek 2013, “There Are 52 Weeks in a Year, Why Not Make at Least One of Them Meat-free?,” usvegweek.com (accessed Apr. 22, 2013)