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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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  • Brain washed says:

    I live in a rural community, where farming is a way of life. My family, myself and 99% of our community ISN’T vegetarian. Around here there are hog buildings, feed lots, and turkey buildings. I’ve seen pretty much all of them, and I have yet to see a single animal that has been abused or slaughtered while conscious. Around here many people hunt for that trophy buck. If we didn’t there would be more people dead than deer, because the deer are becoming overpopulated. The reason for that is not farming, but because of the growth of cities and towns. And you can not honestly say that EVERY SINGLE feed lot, hog buliding, locker, ect. abuses and miss treat their animals

  • Angie says:

    So glad I decided to look at this site today. I’ve been ill for most of this year and was not helped by a bout of e-coli earlier in March. Your videos have given me the shove I needed to kick meat and dairy once and for all. I hope I can spread the word. blessings to you all.

  • PETA says:

    Re: dean armand: Actually, human bodies are better suited to a vegetarian diet. Carnivorous animals have long, curved fangs, claws, and a short digestive tract. Humans have flat, flexible nails, and our so-called “canine” teeth are minuscule compared to those of carnivores or even compared to vegetarian primates like gorillas and orangutans. Our tiny canine teeth are better suited to biting into fruits than tearing through tough hides. We have flat molars and a long digestive tract suited to a diet of vegetables, fruits, and grain. Not only do humans not need to eat meat to stay healthy, but we are, in fact, far healthier if we do not eat meat. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Dietetic Association have endorsed vegetarian diets. Studies have also shown that vegetarians have stronger immune systems than meat-eaters, who, moreover, are almost twice as likely to develop heart disease and 60 percent more likely to get cancer. The consumption of meat and dairy products has also been conclusively linked with diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, clogged arteries, obesity, asthma, and impotence. For more information about nutrition and the many health benefits of vegetarianism, please visit our Web site http://www.GoVeg.com and the Web site of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at http://www.PCRM.org/health/veginfo/index.html.

  • Carrie says:

    I was a vegetarian off and on for 10 yrs and I was very healthy and happy . And somehow I made a bad mistake and started to eat fish and poultry , I now have high blood pressure and I am over weight. Now after watching some of the clips from the slaughter houses , and food inc I will NEVER EVER again eat any kind of meat . I cant believe that any one could ever want to be a part of this horrible insane industry that is so cold and inhumane . I just want to make sure I inform as many friends and family as I can , And beg them to not eat meat . Please Stick to it and show the slaughter companies that we dont have to be a part of this cruelty ( GO VEGETARIAN ) ..

  • dean armand says:

    we are designed to eat meat. if you doubt the statement, go to a mirror and smile… please explain your cainine teeth. BTW vegetarian 101 is incorrect, check out the paleo diet. In an nut shell Sugar is the problem (aka carbs) not animal proteins.

  • Nikki says:

    I think that becoming a full vegetarian/vegan takes a lot of commitment. I believe in taking it one step at a time instead of doing it all at once. It’s always the small changes that lead to bigger changes and that leads to a permanent habit that you’ll keep on doing. I really do want to stop eating meat so I’m trying to limit that times that I do eat chicken/turkey and try to eat more vegetarian products. I’m even trying to use egg replacers in my baking :)

  • Denise says:

    I am so thankful fo the information…my brother is a vegan and now I know why…thank you Peta…

  • MsSquirrely says:

    I’ve been wanting to go vegetarian for some yrs now but with children I found it more difficult due to outside infuences, particularly School. They are much older now so I think I feel more confident in being successful with this challenge. Thanks for all the helpful information provided via PETA resources.

  • iamaveggie says:

    it sickens me how people can be so heartless.

  • meg says:

    Thanks PETA for be vegan for 30 days,Just signed up. Have been wanting to do this for a while. Now have perfect excuse to tell meat eater partner, who is pretty understanding but hates not having meals together.

  • steph says:

    I’ve been veggie for 16 years and will never ever go back.

  • GIA says:

    madiness97,

    IF YOU DAD ISNT LETTING YOU BECOME A VEGETARIAN WORK AROUND IT. EAT TONS OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES ESPECIALLY KALE SPINACH AND BROCCOLI AND BEANS.

  • Veggie Lover says:

    I have been a vegetarian for over seven months, I first started because of wanting to aquire a healthy habit after being told that I was boderline in high cholesterol and diabetes. And recently after researching ways to maintain my vegetarian habits, I discovered the way that these defenseless creatures were severely mistreated. I felt as if somebody would have reached into my stomach and yanked my guts out. Needless to say, I am done with eating meat. My heart goes out to all these animals.

  • Cormier says:

    I acknowledge the health benefits and ecological benefits from being vegetarian/vegan, but I am always receiving opposition to it due to this B12 myth, saying I will have nerve damage going veggie. But i know that’s not true. I am trying hard to be vegetarian still and i will succeed.

  • Dave says:

    I am 33 and I’ve thought of becoming a vegan for years. As I continue my life journey I am now ready to cut all meat and foods containing animal products out of my diet. for me to be at peace and surrounded by love I can no longer eat something that a beating heart had to suffer or die.

  • Lessssy says:

    I am so proud to be a vegetarian after reading this(‘:
    stop the cruelty n.n<3

  • Cattail1114 says:

    I have been a vegetarian for 2 years now and recently a pescatarian (because my grandma complained when I moved in) and I moved to live with my grandma and we started to use those wanchai and macaroni grill meal kits and I thought that if we didn’t use chicken in it it was vegetarian it said that it had chicken fat in it and chicken powder or something but it was only in it if you used chiken and now that I think about it I pretty sure its in the mix and Im have been eating those and I have one more in the house and even though I don’t wan to eat it my grandma made me and is going tho make me eat the other one but I feel horrible that I ate chicken fat and broth or whatever and now I think I let myself down. What do you think?

  • Lucia says:

    Like lots of people, I am a vegetarian with out the support of my family. I became a vegetarian when I was nine, then quit when I was ten due to medical issues, then started up again when I was 11, and have been going ever since (I am now 13). My mother says that animals were put on this earth to be eaten, which angers me BEYOND belief. My father says PETA was made by liars who want to over throw the world, and that I should suck it up and stop being a prissy baby about not eating meat. Of course, both of these horrible people are wrong…and from the way they think of these animals, I am ashamed to be related to them. I have been a vegetarian for two years, and at times it has been really hard without the support of my family. My friend loned me the book “Farm Sanctuary” by Gene Baur (everyone should read it!!) and it has inspired me to try to go vegan! The book describes how factory ‘farmers’ do not think of their animals as individuals, just as replaceable machines. How we should all think of the animals raised and slaughtered for OUR SATISFACTION as individuals with their own feelings, like and dislikes and personalities. PETA was the one who got me started and Gene Baur has helped me fly, so Thank you so much! If enough people become vegetarians, we could literally save the world!

  • Hmm says:

    I have a relatively simple question if we shouldn’t eat meat why do we have k9s. And is it ok for wolfs to eat meat? I mean no threat to Vegans and or vegetarians if you are more power to you, but if your one of the really annoying ones who think eating meat is a sin please explain your logic I know your out there and I know this will get your attention.

  • Frank William Finney says:

    Been a veggie for quite a while now. Even fake meat makes me sick.
    Thanks Paul for donating your time for a very worthwhile cause.
    Fighting the mega-killers for profit is a difficult battle indeed.

  • Hope K says:

    I have been a vegetarian for about 15 months and how I become one was one day I was at a petting zoo and since I am so in love with all the animals, when my friend asked me if I wanted a hot dog I got really mad and said something along the lines of “How could you think I’d eat that when I’m here?!” as I was petting an adorable chicken. I actually felt bad for that chicken and I named it Charles and everything. I’d say it loved me though, for it let me hold it for a long period of time and then it followed me around for the rest of the time I was there and it didn’t like other kids holding it. After that day, I haven’t had another piece of meat and I don’t regret it at all. I never liked eating meat in the first place, it always felt wrong since I always imagined the meat as a living, breathing, cute organism and not just food. I am 14 years of age, 15 in february and I feel like I will never go back to eating meat again. It repulses me and even the smell repulses me aswell. Heck, when I walk by sobeys and see the lobsters and crabs all squished ready to be slaughtered it saddens me almost to the point of crying. I don’t even eat any seafood because they’re animals too.

  • itsmeallyp says:

    I’m a new vegetarian. I decided to live this life style for health reasons. I have this one body and this one life and I want to live life to the fullest! I can’t wait to start this new chapter of my life. :) thank you PETA! Also…I sent for the vegetarian starter kit how long does it take? Is it really 6 weeks?

  • Fenris the Wolf says:

    I don’t see how your father or any other person can dictate to you what you do and do not eat. It is not up to him what goes into your body, especially when it comes to personal choices that make that are based on your philosophical needs.

    Show your father just how serious you are (if you indeed are serious). Let him know that you refuse to give into to his Stone Age bullying. There are several safe ways to do this and if you show him that this isn’t a phase, then he will probably be more likely to consider your needs.

  • Tia says:

    There are so many AMAZING reasons to become a vegetarian. I can’t imagine how people can deny these facts. I lost 20 pounds during the year that I was a vegetarian and I feel healthier and happier then ever. I’ve always had chronic stomach pains and vegetarianism has reduced these problems dramatically. I love animals and can’t stand to know that they are being tortured for human’s enjoyment. Everyone spread the word about vegetarianism!! Knowledge is power!

  • Ginianka says:

    Thank good
    I’m Vegetarian for 2 years now since I was 14….
    After school I’ll go to the university and then I can let my dream come true an be Vegan :)

  • Grecia Salas says:

    I am taking the pledge to be vegetarian for 30 days. I used to be vegetarian, however, my mom got mad at me. I told her to please let me do it and I told her that I will be healthy too, so she said okay. I’m really happy to do this because after seeing the video it really changed me I mean I knew the animals were killed, but I never knew how they tortured them and then killed them. I was seeing the video and I couldn’t stop crying i mean I started shivering when I saw how the pig was still alive and the people cut the piggies throat. I can’t believe people actually work to do such a horrible thing.

  • HugATree193 says:

    i always hated chicken, but after looking at all the videos on how people in the slaughter house treated all those poor, helpless animals… i decided to go completely vegetarian, I’m going to try to work myself up to vegan, even though it’s gonna be super hard. I’ll try. The videos still make me cry every time i watch them. =(

  • Tim says:

    Regarding eggs, if the chickens are raised on a humane farm environment (yes, they do exist although certainly not enough of course), is it still okay to consume them?

  • $ON! says:

    its really very very bad to eat animals
    i’m a vege right from the start and nw i’l tell all my frnds about dis
    i’m happy to be a vegee….

  • vegan;D says:

    GO VEG, BE GREEN, TO SAVE THE PLANET!~ yeahhh.

  • Mr Dhimant Kariya says:

    I am vegetarian. But the videos on Meat.org were shocking enough for me that I’ll pass them to my all Non-veg friends.

  • Linda Ruscetta says:

    If everyone became vegetarian it would be ideal, however you know there are those that will NEVER give up meat. While encouraging people to not eat meat is a great thing, there has to be another way to stop the cruelty. Thanks to celebrities like Paul McCartney who’s video I saw today – reminded me why I gave up eating meat in the 70′s. Whenever people ask me why I don’t eat meat I will e-mail them his video so they can see for themselves, which is what I did today. If everyone emailed this video to just 5 or 10 people, it would definitely be an eye-opener to those who “just don’t get it” or who don’t want to believe it because they have not witnessed anything like this before.

  • rebecca says:

    i just tarted being a veggitarian like a week ago and wha do i eat?

  • Lys19 says:

    I turn vegetarian like a month ago. I was never a big meat eater. My parents thought I couldn’t do it but here I am doing it and I love it! Morningstar and Amy’s products are good! Salads, fruits, and veggies are also good :) thru it all my fam has been really supportive and helpful!!

  • Mark Paquette says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time. Morningstar makes AWESOME chicken mcnuggets – I live by ‘em. Also, I DO eat eggs, when I shop I shop for free-range organic eggs. However, I do eat eggs @ my favorite diner … so I think I have to re-think that as I doubt they use free-range chicken eggs. The reason I don’t mind eating free-range chicken eggs is because the creature is pre-sentient and as a daily exerciser I do need substantial amounts of protein, etc. It would be nice if vegetarian food were financially cheaper.

  • Vesley says:

    Before this, I already was on a certain diet where diary and wheat was not to be on my list. Now, meat is booted off and today, I’ve officially had my last chicken. That’s it, I’m a be a vegetarian.

  • James says:

    I am ready to start, but I need help. Recipes, please.

  • sarah says:

    i just became a vegetarian a few days ago and i dont think my parents are quite on board with the whole no meat thing. they always bring home chicken nuggets and are like sarah do u want n e oh way ur a vegetarian now.. its rly mean and hard but im trying to stay away from it all (meat, etc) but its been hard. i am pretty athletic and i always hear “well u need protein if ur an athlete and if u dont eat meat u will stop growing”…i hate it all my friends give me crap and so do my parents. wtvr im goin to try to stay strong!!

  • stonekoldk says:

    I became vegetarian in August of this year and haven’t looked back since, I feel so much better than before. If only my family would join me.

  • Ronald from Holland says:

    Killing animals for taste.. *veg for 5 yrs*

  • madness 101 says:

    TO MADINESS 97….YOUR DAD MAY NOT CARS OR IS NOT AWARE OR WHAT? SOME PEOPLE ARE IN DENIAL AND DON’T WANT TO CHANGE WHAT THEY THINK IS GOOD FOR THEM. IT TASTE GOOD CAUSE THEY DO NOT KNOW OR CARE TO KNOW. BLOOD IS AN AQUIRED TASTE AND MOST PEOPLE ARE VAMPIRES. ANIMALS NOW……HUMANS LATER……ALL IN DUE TIME….THE FUTURE.

  • Colleen says:

    To ‘earth lover” I have found some good chicken nugget-replacements (veggie) that are good! From Morning Star Farms..

  • Alexis Mercado says:

    I know its not that big, but it is my 4th day as a vegetarian and its hard but its so much better then killing innocent animals! My friends got me into it and after I learned what a veal was, that hit the spot! and I said I am a vegetarian!

  • Ashley-P says:

    Hey Princess! My husband used to be a meat eater when I first went vegan. For a while he would cook his own meat, but he eventually began trying some of the vegan dishes I made. A couple months into it, he was vegetarian, and now he is vegan! It was all a matter of exposing him to new foods. He always loved animals, but it took some pushing to show him that if you love them you shouldn’t eat them. Best of luck to you and your family on this exciting new journey!

  • Willow Kavanagh says:

    ever since i was little i never ate red meat, my parents would try to feed it to me and nothing they could do would make me eat it, I would often run of crying if they forced me to.
    I ate white meat till last years christmas (i was14) On christmas i promissed myself i would never eat meat again. Ive been going for 11 months and sure i have been tempted to give in and eat some chicken but i tell myself its not worth it, I tell myself im doing the best i can to make a a difference and theres no point in giving in!

    I will never go back!

  • princesslovelyga says:

    so i really don’t have a comment, really a question. After thinking hard about this decision, I have decided to become a vegetarian today. However, my husband would never stop eating meant. Also, I do most of the cooking. What do I do? Even though, I won’t be eating meat, I will still feel guilty for having to still cook it. Someone please guide me!!!

  • Ashley-P says:

    Hey Jorge, Thanks for your comment! In order for a cow to produce milk, she must have a calf. “Dairy” cows are impregnated every year in order to keep up a steady supply of milk. In the natural order of things, the cow’s calf would drink her milk (eliminating her need to be milked by humans). But dairy cows’ babies are taken away within a day or two of birth so that humans can have the milk that nature intended for their calves. Female dairy calves may be slaughtered immediately or raised to be future dairy cows. Male dairy calves are confined for 16 weeks to tiny veal crates too small for them even to turn around in so that their flesh, sold as veal, will be atrophied and nonmuscular. Then these weak, 4-month-old youngsters are sent to the slaughterhouse.

  • Kevis says:

    I am not a full vegetarian but my consumption of meat is very low. I opt for vegetarian alternatives when possible. In the last 6 months, I’ve probably eaten only 3 hamburgers. I am now working on cutting out fish and chicken. I am an advocate of “humane” slaughterhouses although I know the best thing would be no slaughterhouses.

  • Marissa says:

    I just recently became a vegeterian a few weeks ago. The video that inspired me to become one was PETA’s “Glass Walls” video (on Meat.org) I think it is so inhumane and brutal how they treat these poor animals. Also the PETA Vegeterian Starter Kit is wonderful for an aspiring vegetarian plus it’s FREE! I can tell you, it was NOT easy in the beginning. I have always been a huge chicken eater, but you just have to resist the temptation and think about those poor animals. You are saving more than 100 animals a year from this cruelty by becoming a vegetarian! GoVeg!!!

  • jorge says:

    im a big milk drinker….if i go vegan, that would mean no more milk…or is it possible that there are dairy farms or milk companies that do not treat their cows with such conditions as mentioned in the videos?….for instance, i buy milk that has a seal promising that the farmers do not add any drugs to make their animals grow faster and produce more. what about milk from them?

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