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Vegetarian 101

When it comes to vegetarianism, the number one question on most meat-eaters’ minds is, “What do you eat?” The answer: Anything we want! There are vegetarian alternatives to almost any animal food, from soy sausages and “Fib Ribs” to Tofurky jerky and mock lobster. Vegetarian-friendly menus are sprouting up everywhere—even Burger King offers veggie burgers—and more and more eateries are focusing exclusively on vegetarian and vegan foods. There are fantastic alternatives to every dairy product you can imagine, including Soy Delicious ice cream, Silk chocolate soy milk, Tofutti cream cheese, and more.

Going vegetarian has never been easier, and we’re here to help! From our fantastic recipes and list of favorite products and favorite vegetarian cookbooks to our free vegetarian starter kit and online shopping guide, PETA has all the information you need to adopt a healthy and humane vegetarian diet!

Every year in the U.S., more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food. Raising animals on factory farms is cruel and ecologically devastating. Eating animals is bad for our health, increasing the risk of developing various diseases and illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.

In response to animal welfare, health, and ecological concerns, compassionate people everywhere are adopting a vegetarian diet.

For Animals

Animals on factory farms are treated like meat, milk, and egg machines. Chickens have their sensitive beaks seared off with a hot blade, and male cattle and pigs are castrated without any painkillers. Farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing. They are mired in their own waste, and the stench of ammonia fills the air.

Animals raised for food are bred and drugged to grow as large as possible as quickly as possible—many are so heavy that they become crippled under their own weight and die within inches of their water supply.

Animals on factory farms do not see the sun or get a breath of fresh air until they are prodded and crammed onto trucks for a nightmarish ride to the slaughterhouse, often through weather extremes and always without food or water.

Many die during transport, and others are too sick or weak to walk off the truck after they reach the slaughterhouse. The animals who survive this hellish ordeal are hung upside-down and their throats are slit, often while they’re completely conscious.

Many are still alive while they are skinned, hacked into pieces, or scalded in the defeathering tanks. Learn more about the factory-farming industry. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can save more than 100 animals a year from this misery.

One suggestion: If you plan to make the transition to a vegetarian diet gradually, the most important foods to cut out of your diet first are bird flesh and eggs. While many people think that “red meat” and dairy products should be the first to go, this isn’t the case.

By cutting bird flesh from your diet, you’ll save many more animals. Because chickens are so small, the average meat-eater is responsible for the deaths of many more chickens than cows. Plus, chickens and turkeys exploited by the meat and egg industries are the most abused animals commonly used for food.

For Your Health 

Some of the leading killers in America today, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and strokes, are directly linked to meat-based diets. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America today, and it can often be caused by the build-up of cholesterol and saturated fat from animal products in our arteries.

The only two doctors in human history who have successfully reversed heart disease have included an exclusively vegetarian diet as a part of their programs. The average vegan cholesterol level is 133 (compared to 210 for meat-eaters); there are no documented cases of heart attacks in individuals with cholesterol under 150. Other health problems tied to clogged arteries, like poor circulation and atherosclerotic strokes, can be virtually eliminated with a vegan diet.

Vegans are approximately one-ninth as likely to be obese as meat-eaters and have a cancer rate that is only 40 percent that of meat-eaters. People who consume animal products are also at increased risk for many other illnesses, including strokes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, multiple allergies, diabetes, and food poisoning. Learn more about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

For the Environment

America’s meat addiction is poisoning and depleting our potable water, arable land, and clean air. A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute. More than half of the water used in the United States today goes to animal agriculture, and since farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement than the human population, the run-off from their waste is fouling our waterways. Animal excrement emits gasses, such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which poison the air around farms, as well as methane and nitrous oxide, which are major contributors to global warming.

Forests are being bulldozed to make more room for factory farms and crops to feed farmed animals, and this destruction causes soil erosion and contributes to species extinction and habitat loss. Raising animals for food also requires massive amounts of food and raw materials: Farmed animals consume 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains that we grow, and one-third of all the raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S. go to raising animals for food. In short, our country’s meat addiction is wrecking the earth. Read more about factory farming and the environment.

Request a vegetarian starter kit to get started today!

You may have been thinking about a vegan lifestyle for a while but didn’t know where to start. Well, it’s as easy as one, two, three! Here you can find out how to go vegan in three simple steps.

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  • thesandy10 says:

    i have been wanting to become a vegeterian for soem time now and i have decided to make the decsision hopefully my parents will let me. im 16 i beleive i am capable of making this decision i hope they understand that

  • arvind says:

    for peacefully mind be vegetarian

  • arvind says:

    for peacefully mind be vegetarian

  • Lexi <3 Animals says:

    When I saw this website I thought to myslef “what if that was me being slaghtered” I cant help but burst into tears when I see one of those animal cruelty commercials. Im only 12 and I know that its wrong to kill animals but if a 12 year old could figure that out why cant the rest of the world figure that out. When I see a person eating a cheeseburger I always ask them “Hows that greasy cow?” cause thats what it is. Im going vegitarian but it will be hard considering my dad hunts and my whole family eats meat. I will need all the support I can get! Wish me luck!

  • KWeeks says:

    I became vegetarian years before starting a family.I stayed veg. throughout 3 healthy pregnancies,my children have never eaten meat,although I gave them the choice as soon as they could talk,they are all very healthy and above average in intelligence and height.I give them some supplements,just to be sure,but they are doing great..they think meat is disgusting.

  • Emma Courtney says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for seven years (I don’t eat eggs but I do eat dairy) and I really want to go vegan.

  • mandalovesall says:

    my friend help me start becomming a veggie. i’ve been a veggie for almost 4 months now, and i accdently ate a peice of meat not knowing, after i cried, my stomach hurt for a long time, like 3 weeks. My dad didn’t approve, and i don’t thnk he does now either..but he has bught me one or two things. dn’t know hat s gonna happen when thanksgiving comes,…i never liked turke anyway…but stll….its gona be hard, but i can do it! (: i just think that i don’t want an animal to die because i’m hungry. (:

  • jo bowen says:

    Hi, I’ve been vegetarian for 22 years because i think it is wrong to consume animals. Through being a vegetarian I have encountered quite a bit prejudice, from being accused, to wanting attention, being unsocialable and an outcast. People who are vegetarian are considerate to their environment and to animals.

  • ashlee says:

    I have been vegan for 5 years! Its not that hard seeing how now they make all kinds of different food, You will be more healthy and feel better that a animal has been saved because of you! Just do your research and see which companies do testing on animals. You wouldn’t eat your dog right? And you can help by ADOPTING an animal from a shelter, Many animals die because no body wants them… So next time you want a burger remember they had to go threw all the pain so they could get eatin!!!!

  • aminallover says:

    i’m more a strict vegetarian for the health resons. many days i’m even vegan. i’m thinking about going completely vegan because of all sorts of health issues that run in my family. so if not for the animals, do it for your health.

  • 4mula1 says:

    hey earthlover i got good news for you, you can still be vegan and get chicken nuggets. (bocafoods.com) meijer has VEGAN chicken nuggets as do many other supermarkets. ps, I DO NOT understand why peta (& other groups) say go vegetarian, why allow the cruelty of dairy?… & milk is for baby cows, why not push VEGAN, its better than vegetarian no matter how you look at it. dont get dairy milk get almond or soymilk. (ect) also get vegan hot dogs tofu hot dogs and burgers.

  • Cat says:

    I’ll never eat meat again. http://www.meat.org

  • Sistergoldenhair says:

    Great info! I didn’t know it was better to cut out the chicken and eggs first, like many others I made the mistake of eliminating the red meat first. I also made the change of buying/eating everything fresh. No “packaged and/or processed foods”.

  • taylor martinez says:

    im a vegetarian since feburary 10th and i will never go back!! im in a hunting town and i am constitaly defending animals!! even from the demon teachers!!! plus im a teen and nobody listens!! luckly my mother and father support me 100%! go veg. heads!!

  • Samantha , i feel bad . says:

    i feel so bad for these animals . im going vege and never going back , . im probably not going to survive but ill try . feeling like those animals must be hard , im trying my best now to be like my friend bayleigh , she showed me that vegetarianism isnt that bad . this is my oath i will never eat meat again !

  • Samantha , i feel bad . says:

    i feel so bad for these animals . im going vege and never going back , . im probably not going to survive but ill try . feeling like those animals must be hard , im trying my best now to be like my friend bayleigh , she showed me that vegetarianism isnt that bad . this is my oath i will never eat meat again !

  • The Book Thief says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for five months now. It started on a complete whim; I like meat but just wanted to stop killing to eat. Many people don’t get that. But I didn’t know just how grotesquely violent people got with animals. Especially with poultry. Because of PETA, even though I love eggs, I’m going to take them out of my diet as well. Ingesting violence makes you tolerant of violence, which is something I just can’t agree with. Thanks. :)

  • Nicnic33 says:

    I haven’t decided my level of commitment to giving up meat, but this site has definitely opened my eyes to the unimaginable cruelty…there is not reason slaughtering has to be so brutal. Greed for more money regardless of compassion is wrong. I don’t want to support that industry.

  • emcneilly says:

    I have been a vegeteraian since January 2008 after watching a series of programmes kill it cook it, eat it. I decided that night never to eat any animal ever again. I went through life not thinking of where meat came from. I now realise the suffering that animals go through. I know that I will never, ever eat meat again

  • Anthony says:

    I have been eating every kind of meat since probably birth. I love BBQ and the taste of meat. After seeing this I am trying the pledge for 30-days and If all goes well I will become a vegetarian. I had no idea this is how God’s creature were being treated. Its bad enough there food. Thanks

  • Karla says:

    I found the Peta video very difficult to watch but knew that I had to if I was going to continue supporting this industry by purchasing meat. I will never get those images out of my head….not another morsal of meat has entered my body since. I am ashamed of my past eating habits and realize that it is not enough for any of us to consume mindlessly without thought or research to how “food” gets to our table. What has also struck me hard is how the people handling these living creatures appear so callous and cruel…beyond the “necessity” of their “job”. It makes my heart ache to see what we have become as a nation….as a world. We all need to take a look at the way we live….we have a GREAT deal to answer to. God help us all

  • Farmyard says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, however, I still eat eggs, cheese and drink cows milk. I only buy free range eggs and the dairy industry in NZ has cows grazing in pastures 100% of the time Soooo on an animal ethics point of view is it wrong to still eat the dairy and eggs?

  • Grits says:

    Whenever I get a craving I just say the word “SLAUGHTER” quietly to myself and enjoy my vegetarian meal!

  • Ozgirl says:

    I have been a vegetarian for most of my 42 years and until recently, thought I was doing a fabulous job. Then my daughter introduced me to a website explaining how many “vegie” foods actuially have animal products in them. I felt so sick & betrayed to learn of these hidden products. I am now in the process of totally going vegan, which I am more than happy to do and wish more people would. I totally enjoyed your site, has been very helpful but am wondering if I can find a similar list for Australian products? Does anyone know of one? One last thing. Why do all these celebs turn vegie or claim to care about people wearing fur while they strut around in their leather shoes & dresses and carrying leather handbags? Seems a bit hypocritical to me!!

  • Me says:

    I wonder what ya’ll think about locally raised eggs? I’ve got a neighbor who has a hen house. He adopted them from the local animal shelter and he keeps his chickens happy and well fed. They roam his yard, sleep in a clean hen house and really are more like pets. He says, and I agree, that for all the care and protection that he offers, he feels its fair that he collects the eggs. As these are non- fertilized eggs seems fair to me. What do ya’ll think?

  • veganfreak says:

    Madiness97,

    You can totally go vegetarian! Have you tried to talk to your parents about the reasons why you want to change your eating habits? If you really want to go vegetarian then you need to put your foot down and explain why.

  • Bill Sullivan says:

    As with far too many others, I had “conveniently” put aside the knowledge that the meat in front of me came from a living, feeling mammal. That supressed image was shocked back to reality through this website. I love animals & birds – all of nature’s wonderful creatures – and can no longer tolerate my own indirect support for the inhumane cruelty of factory farming. That, combined with a need to knock off some personal poundage, decrease my intake of fats and cholesterol, and put myself on the road to good health are driving my newest life goal: To be Vegetarian. At this point, I’m uncertain how far I will get up the ladder toward Vegan, but the journey starts TODAY.

  • Eggsontoast says:

    I totally respect it when people become vegitarian for humane reasons. In all truth and honesty, I’m vegitarian for health reasons. This empathy toward animals is just not in my constitution where it would be a driving factor. The cruelty is sad, yes, but I have no wish to have the rest of the world go meatless. To the guy/gal who gets tempted by chicken nuggets, I found it easy to just reach for the spinach nuggets in the frozen food aisle. It satisfys.

  • Animal Lover says:

    I never knew what animals suffered just so I could have a hamburger. My sister has been a vegetarian for 5 months now and I asked why she did. She gave me this website and now I know why. I will never eat meat again its just cruel what they do to animals. :’(

  • Sayen says:

    I have been a vegetarian for over 14 years, I already knew as a child what they did to the poor animals and I couldnt eat them!
    The brutality is unhuman bizzar and frightening.
    I wish and hope that more people take the step to do a big change for themselves, the environment and especially the animals…
    Good site this should be shown more often, to remind everyone…/vegetarian 4-ever

  • Merlin says:

    Mankind is DOOMED !
    Mankind is the SINGLE most destructive force destroying the world past present and future.
    Unless this EVIL is countered, the world as we know it will cease to exist !

    This is a FACT as much as EVERYONE not wanting to accept this.

    Animals do not;

    Pollute the Environment, man does.
    Kill other animals for fun or in excess except for food, man does
    Cause global warming, man does
    Start Wars, man does

    The END is near.
    Start cultivating your salvation in whatever faith you’re in.
    The errors of the world is TOO massive to stop. It may slow but it may be too late.
    GOD have mercy on us ALL !

  • Dr. FlowerPower says:

    I have been vegetarian since July 23rd 2010, the day my cat Taddy died. I have always wanted to go vegetarian but I felt like this was my good reason to start. I don’t miss any meat whatsoever and think that I am going to go vegan. Eating the product of a cruelly-treated animal is just as bad as their flesh. I just watched Food Inc. which was amazing. I blame all of the problems our world (especially our country) is encountering on the government’s selfish money-hungry minds. It’s all a conspiracy. But anyway I LOVE ANIMALS!!!!

  • mindful eating says:

    OK I am REALLY going to do it this time. If others can, I can too. I look forward to the starter kit. Hope it will be helpful. I will need all the help, advice and support I can get. I’ve been semi-veg. for half my life but just never took the full plunge. Today is the day!!! Shinny Bitch pushed me over the edge.

  • bilby16 says:

    some people dont get it, how we can be happy living without meat, but how can you be happy killing over 600 animals if you live to be just 60! which is even more likely considering all the fat you are putting in your body when you eat a steak! uck! if you really think about it, can you imagine eating a dead cow?!

  • Tomatoless Veggi? says:

    I would really like to be vegetarian but when I look up recipes most involve tomato. I crave tasty foods and like spice but am allergic to tomato. Where can I find a bank of recipes without tomatoes, not just 3 -4 recipes?

  • Shawna says:

    I am so sad with tears in my eyes as I type. I will never eat another chicken or any kind meat. Whenever I’m out at a restuaruant I look at meat and feel sick, I have never liked eggs because if you look closely you will see the umbilical cord attached to the yok! just gross! I will be a vegetarian from this point on in my life. I have a cat at home and I know about sluaghter houses from educating myself its rediculous. Poor animals!!! those people should be treated the same way so that they can see how it feels. Im sad.

  • rayray says:

    I am 13 years old and i found a video from this website, called meet your meat. After watching it i became devastated and promised that i will not eat anything that comes from an animal. I have support from my sister, and some of my friends. Yet my mother calls me stupid, and so does my step-dad, they won’t help me with this. I would like to thank you for showing me what is really happening!

  • Jilliebo says:

    I am crying as I write this. I just finished watching the video by Alec Baldwin. I’m sure there is not one person in North America that hasn’t heard something about farm animal abuse but we go about our lives pretending THAT meat isn’t sold in our local grocery store (I live in Canada) but all you have to do is watch the video and you realize it’s EVERYWHERE!!!
    I was naturally a vegetarian when I was young. I hated meat and most often wouldn’t touch it but lost that care somewhere along the way. I have been seriously considering going vegetarian for quite a while now and after seeing that video… well let’s just say, welcome to the first day of the rest of your life without supporting the cruelty!!! Thanks PETA for NOT beating around the bush and for giving me a huge dose of the harsh reality. You’ve made my decision that much easier!

  • ketsuhime says:

    I’m currently 15 and have been a vegetarian for 7 years. I love animals too much to hurt them and eat them. Meat is disgusting. Animals have feelings too, they feel pain. They did nothing to deserved to be killed. Killing something just because it tastes good is pointless.

  • Martina says:

    Me and my daughters (ages 2 and six) have been vegetarian for almost a year now, looking back I can’t believe I ever ate meat knowing how selfish I was being. Innocent animals do not need to be treated that way. What makes us better than them that we get to decide they can be slaughtered for our dinners, its disgusting.

  • Radhika=) says:

    umm; ivee been vegetarian since birth.
    So depressing just by reading what the animals goes through just for the ‘tastebud’ satisfaction for humans; its inhumane.

  • An says:

    I want to be a vegetarian sinds I was little but my mom wouldn’t let me.
    Now I’m serieusly thinking becoming a vegetarian but I am scared about the people around me think that it’s stupid.
    They also have to change their food habbits because I’m there to say I dont eat some things.. I’m scared they wont understand why I want to do this.;

  • JJGeorgia says:

    also they put SPECIAL HORMONES in meat!
    UGH!

    i am slowly cutting out meat from my life. starting with pork.

  • Suz says:

    I just celebrated my six-month “veggiversary” – six months a vegetarian, and I have never looked back… and I’ve noticed that my diet is becoming increasingly vegan, sort of without my even thinking about it. It is easily the healthiest, kindest, smartest life choice I have ever made. Doesn’t hurt that I’ve lost twenty pounds, either! Go Veg! :)

  • whereIsTheBeef says:

    Nom Nom Nom, I <3 Bacon.

  • earthlover says:

    i have been a vegetarian for 5 months now and i am often tempted by chicken nuggets or a chicken burrito, but all i have to do is think of how that animal felt when its throat was slit and in its final moments of life and i immidiatly eat a salad. animal abuse in slaughterhouses is wrong. chickens should be free and not in cages that are too small. i am healthier and prouder now that i am a vegetarian and do not plan on slipping up, even for a loaded chili dog. this site is inspirational and really informative. thanks.

  • Cidney says:

    In january I decided to be a peskatarian (only meat to eat is fish), after a couple months I realized that all of the foods I like with meat in them are equally good if not better than the food I ate before. Now I’m a full vegetarian. I only planned vegetarianism for the year of 2010, but I can’t picture myself ever eating meat anymore. I feel so much more healthy and I can actually be proud of my diet habits.

  • madiness97 says:

    i wanna be a vegetarian soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo bad!!!!! but my dad wont let me!!! i hate what the slaughter houses do to those poor animals. everytime i look at meat i wanna puke… yet my dad has no problem eating it everyday!!

  • april says:

    umm after reabing this im becoming a veggi person

  • Nancy Guazhco says:

    I am a new vegetarian and could never go back.
    the thought of knowing a defenseless creature was tortured and killed for my benefit sickens to me a point were I can barely function.

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