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Eating GreenGreen is Better
By Dr. Winston Craig

ating green is better and healthier. It is healthier for people, for animals, and for the environment. Eating a plant-based diet is associated with a longer life, less chronic disease, and less damage to the environment.

       Vegetarians enjoy lower levels of blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure levels, less obesity, less heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers than those whose diet includes meat. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic monitored patients with severe coronary artery disease who had previously had angioplasty or a bypass. All those who ate a plant-based diet had no recurrence of coronary events over the next 12 years, and the coronary arteries of 70 percent of them became less clogged.

              The risk of a fatal heart attack in non-vegetarian men is twice that of their vegetarian counterparts, while diabetes is twice as common in non-vegetarians. In addition, the risk of prostate cancer is 54 percent greater in non-vegetarian men than in vegetarians. A finish study observed that middle-aged men who ate the most fruits and vegetables had a 41 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate the least.

 The Cost of Not Going Vegetarian

         The Centers for Disease Control estimate that food pathogens cause about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,200 deaths annually. Outbreaks of foodborne illnesses are most commonly linked to meat and luncheon meats, poultry, seafood, and egg products. Ninety percent of all chickens leaving the food processing plant are contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, while 2.3 million eggs are annually contaminated with Salmonella. Research shows that people who experience food poisoning are more than three times as likely to die in the following year.

            Disease related to a diet low in plant foods and rich in animal foods contributes to escalating health-care costs. One study estimated that going vegetarian could save the United States about $60 billion annually.

Impacting the Earth’s Resources

           It takes about 14 trillion gallons of water annually to water crops grown to feed livestock in the US. As much as 4,500 gallons of water are required just to produce a quarter-pound of raw beef. Just to irrigate hay and alfalfa it takes more water than that required for all vegetables, berries, and fruit orchards combined. In addition, it requires about one pound of fertilizer to produce three pounds of cooked beef. As the price of oil continues to climb, so the price of fertilizer and beef will also increase substantially.

               Disposing of manure and other animal waste without seriously polluting the environment can be a challenging activity. Altogether, about three and a third trillion pounds of livestock manure is produced annually in the US. Run-off from livestock fattening pens containing fecal wastes can seriously contaminate the water supply. Farm sheds containing hogs or chickens produce immense amounts of ammonia, which increase the risk of respiratory illnesses in both animals and man. The methane produced by cattle is estimated to have the same impact on global warming as the carbon dioxide produced by about 33 million cars.

           The ethics of factory farming has also been seriously called into question. Many animals are housed in very cramped living conditions where they may have to sit in their own excrement and never see the outdoors. Severe crowding in industrial factory farms facilitates the spread of pathogens from animal to animal. In addition, the dehorning and tail docking of cattle, and the debeaking and detoeing of chickens are common practices today and cause a lot of pain to innocent animals.

 Problems Also With Fish Farming

          The capture of fish in the wild has almost reached 100 million tons per year, and world fishing is slowly decimating world stocks. Supplies will not be able to keep up with the future demand. The quantity of farm-raised fish has doubled over the past decade, so that one out of every five fish consumed worldwide is now raised in captivity. These fish, crowded into small areas, are susceptible to disease and suffocation.

               Raising fish in crowded, excrement-laden water necessitates the broad use of agrichemicals.  Fish farmers need disinfectants to kill bacteria, herbicides to prevent the overgrowth of vegetation in ponds, vaccines to fight certain diseases, and drugs mixed with the feed to treat diseases and parasites.

           When aquaculture operates in coastal estuaries, the chemicals and waste products generated pollute vast coastal areas.


          The world’s increasing hunger for meat and fish protein is taking its toll on the environment. On the other hand, eating grains and legumes makes for a better utilization of the resources of the earth- land, water and energy. And air and water pollution problems are greatly reduced with a vegetarian diet. Furthermore, food-borne illnesses and the risk of chronic diseases are greatly reduced when the diet is plant-based.


Winston J. Craig, PhD
Andrews University

Books by Dr. Winston Craig