Vegetarianism involves the eating of no meat but permits the eating of eggs or milk. It does not embrace the eating of fish or chicken, as some appear to believe.
As a family, we are vegetarians. We feel happier in our rôle of animal healing, with this philosophy. This is a personal choice. It has quite surprised us how easily it happened, since we were big meat eaters more than twenty years ago and used to slaughter and dress all our own animals. This meant that they didn’t have to leave the place, to travel to an abattoir and they knew no fear, so welfare levels were high. One day, however, we were not able to do it and immediately turned vegetarian.
At the AVMC, we do not ask canine patients to ‘go veggie’, although they are able to do so without undue problems. The lack of bones would be one factor that could bring a health penalty (teeth and gums), unless suitable alternatives were to be sought. We work with many vegetarian patients and vegan patients, of course needing to be careful not to prescribe animal-derived medicines.
Cats are unable to be vegetarian. Their dietary needs cannot be supplied from solely non-animal sources.
The feeding of meat or animal derivatives to herbivores is a travesty of common sense and welfare. Sadly, despite the BSE and FMD scares, it still goes on. Some horse feeds and supplements do contain animal derivatives. This should be frankly illegal but it appears not to be.
There is no doubt that the human race does not require meat (despite what the Director General of the RSPCA said in 2001). There is no doubt that meat production is the reason for our large requirement of land for food production. If everyone were vegetarian, there would not be a food shortage in the world. It has also, very recently, been stated that an individual can make a large contribution to reduction of carbon emissions, by turning vegetarian.
There appears, however, to be a cultural need in many, to eat meat. We sincerely hope that the animal welfare aspects of this will be better sorted in the future. While death itself is an inescapable part of life, the way most food animals live, travel and are killed leaves a lot to be desired. Organic standards are doing much to alleviate the worst aspects of this, so organic meat, reared to Soil Association or Demeter standards, is likely to be ‘high welfare’ meat.
There are other schemes, which purport to have high welfare. We can only advise that the consumer should look deeply into any such claims. Nasty surprises could be in store, both on farm and at slaughter. The reality is often not in line with the dream. It is likely that many people would ‘go veggie’, if they had to kill and dress their own meat or if they had to visit an abattoir.
There are also health aspects to vegetarianism. For instance, strongly suspicious links have been made between human mammary cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer and the eating of meat and dairy products.
And see Veganism
See also: EarthSave Report on relationship between Vegetarianism/Veganism and reduction in greenhouse gases: http://www.earthsave.org/news/earthsave_global_warming_report.pdf
“People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world's leading authority on global warming has told The Observer. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.” (click).
“Has it been Proven that a Vegetarian Diet is Really Healthier? The short answer is a resounding yes; it has been conclusively proven through extensive worldwide studies by independent, highly respected international health advisory boards that a vegetarian diet is significantly healthier than one which includes meat and animal products. This is true for all ages, infant to adult, and includes pregnant and lactating women.” (click)