Some choose the vegetarian lifestyle for religious reasons as they find it wrong to eat the flesh of animals. But for many, the decision to adhere to a vegetarian diet comes down not to a matter of nutrition, but a question of ethics…
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Some choose the vegetarian lifestyle for religious reasons as they find it wrong to eat the flesh of animals. But for many, the decision to adhere to a vegetarian diet comes down not to a matter of nutrition, but a question of ethics. Vegetarians often cite their love for animals as a reason to reject a meat-eating lifestyle, claiming that slaughtering animals for the purposes of consumption is morally objectionable. Still others argue that meat consumption contributes to environmental issues such as pollution, deforestation, and the exploitation of natural resources in the interests of raising feed crops as opposed to more sustainable crops. Whatever the reason, the ethical dilemmas surrounding vegetarianism continue to foster debate among people who wholeheartedly embrace a meat-eating diet and those who condemn the consumption of meat as being morally and ecologically detrimental. It is important to note that there are several levels of vegetarianism by which one can decide to live. The catch-all term “Vegetarian” indicates that a person’s diet does not include the flesh of animals, but the label does allow that animal by-products, such as gelatin, dairy foods, and eggs, can be consumed. Within the vegetarian label, there are several sub-categories. “Lacto-ovo” (or “ovo-lacto”) vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, while “ovo-vegetarians” do not eat dairy, and “lacto-vegetarians” eschew eggs. There is even a category of dieters referred to as “pescetarians,” who consume fish and other seafood but no other meats (though many vegetarians do not consider pescetarianism to be “true” vegetarianism). “Vegan” is the one of the strictest forms of vegetarianism, as adherents do not eat meat or any animal by-product—this includes the aforementioned dairy and egg products, but also includes any animal-produced food such as honey. But there are offshoots of veganism that are even stricter: fruitarians, for example, only eat fruits, seeds, and nuts in an effort to avoid harming plant life, and su vegetarianism not only prohibits the consumption of animal products, but also forbids the eating of all varieties of onion and garlic—essentially, any vegetable that produces an odor. The decision about which path of vegetarianism an individual may take depends on several factors, including concerns about health and weight-related issues and religious beliefs—for example, su vegetarianism is synonymous in many parts of the world with the Buddhist faith. But arguably the greatest influences on a person’s decision to “go veggie” are questions of morality and ethical behavior. The predominant motivation for many vegetarians is the preservation of animal life. Many vegetarians believe that killing animals for the purpose of eating them is wrong, because animals are living creatures and should be afforded the same right to live as human beings. As David DeGrazia states, “[A]nimals are not mere resources for our use, playthings for our amusement, or even practicing grounds for good behavior towards other humans. They count for something in their own right” (148). Because animals have this “moral status” in our world, DeGrazia argues, “it’s wrong to cause extensive, unnecessary harm” to them (149). Abuse of animals is a hot-button topic. Whenever dogs or cats are shown in the aftermath of severe abuse, the public outcry can be deafening, with hundreds of people condemning the abusers while volunteering to shelter the defenseless animal. Yet there is generally not a similar outcry when it comes to the slaughter of animals for meat consumption, because many
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