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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.

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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  • kathy says:

    ok i went vegetarian for a week and quit and after waching glass walls i’m going back. i’m not going vegan but i won’t eat eggs unless they’re home raised.

  • na-na bear says:

    I live in Australia and have wanted to turn vegetarian for quite some time now but i don’t know how to go about it as its sooo hard to find food and shops that dont contain animal products. PLEASE HELP!!

  • Kid says:

    @tinychild- I recently talked to my parents about eating vegetarian, and what I did was this:
    I researched some things thoroughly, my dad was concerned about whether I would get enough protein. So I told him how much protein I had figured I needed and then added up the protein from various foods that I would eat daily and made sure it added up.
    He was also concerned about whether there was anything in meat that I couldn’t get eating vegetarian; I explained about getting complete proteins and that the only thing that sometimes causes problems is B-12, which is only an issue for vegans. I want to be a lacto-ova vegetarian, so this would not be a problem.

    I agreed to eat one certain meat meal a week, at least until he was sure I was doing fine. I also agreed to eat whatever there was when we went over to someone else’s house.

    Also, last but not least, I explained why I wanted to be a vegetarian.

    So, just find out what your parents’ concerns are and do research to address them. On the compromising, eating vegetarian or vegan most of the time is better than eating meat every day, right? Or I guess refusing to eat what’s put in front of you… I have a pretty good relationship with my parents and wouldn’t want to mess it up because I’m not mature enough to work it out.
    I ended up talking to my Dad, who I find it easier to talk to, and saying these things, and he ended up impressed with what I had prepared and letting me do this. 🙂 Good luck talking to your parents, I hope this helps you.

    So, just find out what your parents’ concerns are and

    I agreed to eat one certain meat meal a week, at least until

  • tiny child says:

    I am just recently thinking about becoming a vegetarian, but am not sure on how to tell my parents. How do I do that?

  • editorlady says:

    I too recently shifted from vegetarian to vegan. The best advice I got was to make a list of the dishes you make that are already vegan or can easily be made vegan. For me, this included paella, ratatouille, spring rolls, stir fry, guacamole… Then begin trying some of the substitutes for dishes that you used to use eggs/dairy in. You can make fabulous pancakes and waffles; there are recipes all over the place that call for more baking powder or an egg substitute. Try the different “milks”: soy, rice, almond, coconut and see which you prefer with your cereal and coffee. I like almond milk and coconut coffee creamer–a lot. Quality chocolate has no dairy in it 😀

  • Christina says:

    I am thinking about going vegan. My only problem is that my parents will probably have a hard time with it and so it’ll be hard for me to get food.

  • Cj says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for six years, and recently made the decision to go vegan. Here’s a tip, because it can be expensive, definitely try and make as much of it as you can homemade! You’ll save so much money making your vegetarian patties, snacks, appetizers, ect., if you buy the ingredients and make your food, freeze it, and then just cook it when you need it. The faux cheeses and milks are about .50 to 1.00 more than the regular kind, but, to me, it’s worth it knowing I’m not eating something that died to make it to my plate. Hope you try it 🙂 And good luck!

  • Hope says:

    Is a began diet expensive? Seems like many items are quite expensive and I do have a budget.

  • chris says:

    I have decided to to vegan, I a at a point in my life that I can apply myself as I have tried before-just not the timing. I need your guidance. Helpful guides for meal plans as I work two jobs so something thats simple. Obviously balance is important. I do love to cook, but limited during the week. Any helpful hints would be so grateful!!

  • Ric Reid says:

    I’ve received several wtf’s, when I told some of my closet friends that I’ve chosen to eat a 100% vegan diet. I am new to this (only 3 months). It has been much easier than I anticipated. Honestly, my biggest struggle is choosing eco-friendly household supplies that will fit my budget. 3/4 of my youtube (iamricreid) vids are about my transition (it started with the master cleanse) to a vegan diet (I use this term loosely). Please, don’t let the title (and pg-13 language), of one of my videos dissuade you from viewing it. Regards: Ric

  • phylicia says:

    If you look up, the, it will give you a list of brands and products that are non-gmo. Such as for example, Silk Soy milk is NOT GE, and they display this fact in their product descriptions. All you have to do is do a little research on which brands contain non-gmo soy and there is your safe and healthy alternative. They say that 75-90% of soy, and corn, among others are GE in the United States..that is daunting! But my recommendation is to just research, research, and you can find healthy alternatives that are out there and available even in many price choppers! Good Luck!

  • Sigurd says:

    I dont agree with the “man should fear blood” comment. I am a vegan but I love to see certain people bleed. I do however agree with your comment about a parents childs leg and then going to a restaurant to selfishly consume the flesh of a dead helpless animal. Murdering animals is wrong but hunting child molesters for sport should be a fun pass time.

  • universal-vege says:

    First step in stopping animal cruelty-turn all humans vegan, next step, turn every living creature vegan!! 🙂 No more birds eating poor helpless worms, no more tigers eating cute little deers!

  • Jane says:

    I came on this website about a year ago give or take a few weeks and watched the videos for fun late at night. I thought i could stand it. I’ve been a vegetarian since then. since i became a vegetarian i feel better i eat healthier than my non vegetarian friends and have developed a genuine taste for vegetables. The other week i was up late at night and said to myself, man im craving snow peas when only years ago i’d wake up and take a bite out of cold chicken. Its been a journey and theres still so much more to go but a year ago i didnt think i could last a week and now i don’t even notice the difference.

  • Mouli says:

    I am so proud to be vegetarian by birth. I feel so great about it in this bloody world. For world peace, man should fear blood. For the fact that blood reminds you death. I can prove that non veg food removes that fear from the one’s mind. That is why so much of violence in the world. How can we kill to live ? Animals eat by instinct. Human should keep climbing the civilisation ladder. As we do not follow animals in many ways like we do not walk around nude or do sex on the road, we should eat what does put us higher in the civilisation ladder. That is all. All the other arguments are childish and selfish. Imagine this… a father or a mother cries so much about a wound on their child’s leg… going to the restaurant and asking for two leg pieces for dinner. Can’t we think.

  • akshay says:

    how to do gobi munchurian

  • Dianabol says:

    Very well written, thanks for sharing.


  • Mystico Verdi says:

    To ZilverGalaction, in the hopes of answering your questions: 1) In regards to the video I believe the statement “If slaughterhouses had glass walls then everyone would be a vegetarian,” in my opinion, it means just that to become a vegetarian who does not eat meat because of the horrors committed by the meat industry. Although, I understand that the meat industry does NOT ONLY include slaughtering animals for their flesh, but everything else associated with this such as rendered animal fat (tallow) used in soap, boiling cartillage and joints to make gelatin, leather, etc. 2) I can agree and see where you are going with the whole “indulgence” idea of the consumption of meat because history has taught us about the greed that existed in the Victorian era, for example, in England. An idea that came about during that time (and I believe still continues today) is that meat causes a person to exhibit anger and deviant behavior. Basically, it causes a person to become violent, which personally I DO think this is not as far-fetched of an idea as it appears to be. 3) Yes, unfortunately many things today do include animal devired ingredients of some kind, BUT THERE IS PLENTY OF GOOD NEWS. I would recommend you to read some articles on the PETA website reguarding vegan friendly food products entitled, “Accidently Vegan.” This article is not all-inclusive, it does not list ALL of the vegan grocery items available today because then that would be a long list, but in it you will find popular brands of bread including Cobblestone and Arnold to name a few, cereals, condiments, snacks and the list goes on even candy such as Dots. Personally, I have switched to Arnold Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat Bread (it comes in an orange wrapper with 1 lb. of bread) that is listed on the “Accidently Vegan” article. Now, yes almost all soy IS genetically modified, but not from the SILK BRAND line of soymilk! I have been drinking this brand for years and it clearly states on their website and on the carton itself that the soybeans used to make the soymilk are GMO FREE and grown in North America! It is also 100% vegan so don’t worry about there being ANY animal ingredients in it. 8th Continent is also another good brand of soymilk that is vegan to try and both brands are available at supermarkets nationwide. NO! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SETTLE FOR MILK AND EGGS, TRUST ME! I USE to think the same thing because when you first start trying to eat VEGAN it can SEEM like a daunting and tiresome task, but WITH PRACTICE AND RESEARCH you will improve and learn to pick up on things you did not know before. Read as much information on veganism as possible and I think PETA does an excellent job at supplying so much information on this website. Also, visit your local library and read up on vegetarianism there are hundreds of books and information out there. Google “The Vegetarian Resource Group” there are great ideas, information and links to to other organizations supporting an animal and cruelty-free lifestyle. I hope this helps you in the right direction, if not, then I hope someone else can benefit from it.

  • ZilverGalacticon says:

    I am a bit confused now.
    I know the animals have souls, and thereby are very intelligent, spiritual.. need I to go on?
    However. The first video “If Slaughter-Houses had Glass Walls…” Said everyone would be Vegetarian, not Vegan… Or did they actually mean Vegan?
    Because that leads me to the other question. Before I go on… I know, I know… The reason there is such a hype for meat is because back in the day, people was in the rich mans diet mostly. So it has become something like a style… just like in the “Golden age/era” many men had a crush (or whatever) for low, wide fuel thirsty American cars, lol it was “the thing” back there.

    Question is: Much of the Bread today contains milk, and egg is an ingredient of some food products such as dressing.
    What would you recommend instead. I heard much of the Soy-Milk comes from genetically modified crops 🙁
    Know that this is posted from a poor-man I can not afford expensive alternatives, does this mean I can/have to stick with milk and eggs?
    As for now, its clear to me… Meat is out of the question 😉

  • Melissa Cooper says:

    Last October… Me and my bestest friend, Leah, started looking up on animal cruelty… we came across animal testing videos and it really just wanted to make you cry, we saw another video related to it, except it was animal testing, it was animal slaughter… we cried, and cried and couldn’t believe what we had dedicated ourselves to all our life, we looked up on vegetarians and within 1 hour made the choice to turn vegetarian… then next day i was going to florida, usa (family trip, i live in UK) and everywhere I went was meat… mcdonalds in the UK has veggie burgers, but mcdonalds in the USA doesn’t.. so i just sat there eating there chips for dinner, it was hard and one day my mum have me a bun, i started to eat it but i realised to had ham in it, i immediately ran to the toilets and cried and puked it out, (I’m not bulimia)but i just couldn’t bare the ham in my system. The next day, my mum made me have fish.. and I when i came back home, i read articles on it, and stopped eating fish as well.. last month or the previous one before, i got my peta booklet , i started reading about the cows and how they are treated through the milk industry and how its not natural to drink milk… and there’s alternatives such as vegan soy milk(with flavoured vegan choc) that’s very delicious!(: and vegan alternatives for egg… and everything.. being a vegan feels wonderful knowning that i’m not being dedicated to the suffering of those animals.. it helps my depression a bit, and if i do intend to have children, i will defiantly make them a vegan !(: . Overall; it was hard the first few days but i gradually got around the fact, i love being vegan, changed my life!(:

  • Lauren Watwood says:

    I am so shocked and disgusted by the animal abuse in the meat and dairy industry. I am proud to say I have been strictly vegan for 6 weeks now. I am researching as much as I possibly can to counter the negativity and disbelief I receive from meat eaters. I’ve gone vegan with my best friend, so we are constantly tossing ideas, books, web sites etc… back and forth.

    Go vegan!

  • Arianna says:

    My birthday was two days ago and on that day i found myself thinking about the different changes in my life the past few years. I started to list the bad choices and the good choices, what i regretted and what i was proud of. It’s been a difficult four months since i moved from the only place i consider to be my home. But my comfort was the fact that it was in my home that I went vegetarian. It’s the best part of my life that will always remain constant. So on my first birthday away from home in 5 years, I knew I was completely and incandescently happy to be vegetarian. I am 17 years old and I have been vegetarian for 2 years, 2 months, 1 week, and one day!

  • Animal Lover says:

    It really breaks my heart to read about what these poor animals have to go through. 🙁 I have been a vegetarian for a few months now and I absolutely love it! Thanks PETA for my starter kit! I have never felt better mentally and physically. My only regret is that I haven’t been a vegetarian my whole life. One thing is for sure, I will never eat meat again!

  • Em says:

    Started reading “America’s Food- What you don’t know about what you eat” by Harvey Blatt three days ago.. Haven’t ate meat since and don’t plan on it.

  • KauitzWolf says:

    I was raised vegan, but when I was about seven I started eating dairy and then meat. I can’t say that I regret that switch entirely, because I know now that it isn’t worth it, and I know i’m not missing anything now that I have turned to vegetarianism. It’s comforting to know that I made this decision for myself, and that i’m not the only one spreading the word. In fact, the only thing that irritates me about my current diet is that my friends are shocked by my giving up meat and milk, and they don’t really believe that I was raised vegan, they often forget and offer me food with meat (although they are learning now). I am healthy and meat free, it’s the better alternative!

  • Ramya says:

    I was born in a vegetarian family, however it was not difficult to convert to a non vegetarian. But last august one of my friends enlightened me regarding the various ill effects of the meat industry and how we are made to eat vegetarian food. And since then I have been a vegetarian. Its not very hard since we don’t prepare/have meat at home. However going vegan was my target. Its nearly impossible to do that in an Indian family, however I am trying. My sister has switched to Soya milk. And I have stopped taking yogurt at work. We are cutting down on all animal products as much as possible. And I am proud to be a vegetarian by choice.

  • mommax3 says:

    I am 24yrs old and was diagnosed with high cholesterol. It was a shock to me. I am not over weight but I was eatinf red meaty atleast 4xs a week. The creulty aspect towards animals has always bithered me so I had no issues becoming vegitarian for not only my health but for the animals. I wish more people would do the same. I have been animal flesh free for 2mnths and Iwill have no problem sticking with this diet…I learn new thungs every day!

  • Parvinder Kaur says:

    I am a vegeterian. And I want every one to be vegeterian on this earth as our body is meant for having for vegeterian food only. I am proud to be vegeterian. I love animals. I will always help them. And want to convert more and more non-veg people to vegeterian. Nature is still there to take care of biological cycle of every being. Who are we to interfere in between??

  • Madison says:

    I’m 13 and i REALLY want to be a vegetarian but my family is like the biggest meat eaters ever!!! after looking at the facts i cant see being anything but being vegetarian!

  • Angelina says:

    I was born and raised a meat eater, one of my closest friends is Veghan & has leant me the movie Earthlings and the book “Skinny Bitch”. Page 79 told me to go to the website which led me to you. My Mind and heart are in turmoil over the sensless killing of animals. Until now there was a total disconnect because I loved the taste of meat. Now what I will do with this information is another story. I have ordered the vegetarian starter kit and will host a family meeting. I can’t say I will become vegetarian but I will commit to eating a lot less meat to start with. I know its probably not the answer you are looking for but habits are hard to break. I have been enlightened for sure! And for that I thank you!

  • Erica says:

    I was a vegetarian for a little over a year. When I was pregnant with my first child I craved meat and fish like crazy and I gave up my vegetarian diet and gave into my cravings. Now that my son is 3 months old I am going back to my vegetarian lifestyle because I was much happier and healthier. I also want to teach my child a cruelty free diet that is better for him, animals and our environment. Watching “Meet your Meat” definately help kick start my vegetarianism.

  • Vanessa says:

    Im 14 and I want to be vegetarian not only cause i want to save those poor animals but because its good for your health too. I took the pledge today and I want to stay MEAT FREE for 30 days! Wish me luck! 🙂

  • Cassandra says:

    I’m a vegetarian!!! And I am proud of being one. I been one for almost 2 years. I’m always gonna be one for the rest of my life. I can’t stand how they treat the animals. I love animals to death and could never hurt them. I want to be a vet when i grow up. Thats how much I love animals. I want to help them.

  • Kris says:

    I’ve been vegetarian since I was 13… 14 years ago. I have learned so much more about food, nutrition, and health in these past 14 years than I ever thought I would. I now eat a diverse diet including many flavors and ingredients I never knew existed when I was eating a SAD (Standard American Diet). I am healthier and recover faster than my peers. I’m happy. I would never go back.

  • Floreskathryn16 says:

    I am a huge animal lover and I have wanted to go vegan for a long time. I finally took the plunge and have been meat free for 6 days. No meat, eggs, cheese, or milk. :]

  • Alyssa says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for about 3 years now. Once I saw the videos and read the facts I never looked back. It honestly wasn’t difficult at all for me to give meat up. My entire family is basically ‘anti-vegetarian’ so that part was a little difficult – they’re coming around though! You just need to ignore the jibes and focus on why you’re doing it. It takes a real strength to be a genuine vegetarian & I have nothing but respect for Vegans. That’ll be my next hurdle!

  • AMar says:

    Hello all I took the pledge 3-30-11 and have been meet free for 8 days. I really wanted to go all the way and become vegan instead but leaving cheese is proving to be harder than I thought. After watching the video I really don’t even crave meet at all. I really want to make this a life long thing and hopefully little by little I can stop eating cheese I know I will. For the animals!

  • Kelsang says:

    Hi! I’m 14 and I would LOVE to be vegan/vegetarian cause I can live off meat cause I feel terrible after reading about slaughterhouses.
    But I love eggs! My teacher has chickens in her farm, they are fed fresh food and well kept. Is it bad for me to eat them? I even gave them worms as a gift once!

  • Hannah Radloff says:

    I almost cried watching this video, these animals are treated crueley, its not okay. i love animals, and after seeing thius i hate myself for doing this to them..

  • Brian Anderson says:

    I am 50 years old an have been eating for joy taste and flavor all my life. I have started a vegan diet many times. I stuggled finding meals to replace the joy and love that meat has brought me. Meat has been the most important part of my diet. I really need support any suggestions on how I can get started and never go back to eating meat.

  • Gwen says:

    I am a vegetarian. I was only in it for the health benefits but after visiting this page, I was appalled by the barbaric treatment of those poor animals! How could anyone be so cruel? How would YOU feel if you were only born to feed the carnivorous country we call America? Thank you, PETA, for opening my eyes. I’m glad I made the switch and saved those animal’s lives!

  • Ccantbelieveit says:

    I’m apalled by this video. I couldn’t stand to watch it but I made myself do it and now I took the pledge. How could anyone be so cruel?

  • Mitzi says:

    I just became a vegetarian today..
    Well I’m going to try it out. My mom decided to try it to.
    But is there only a such thing as a MEAT FREE vegetarian?
    I am in the 8th grade and I absolutely LOVE animals! The videos made me cry and feel sick to my stomach. Poor animals. This website, is truely amazing. : )

  • Ann Marie says:

    I cried while watching the video about how these poor animals are treated, I haven’t eaten meat since and surly won’t again. This barbaric and disgusting treatment must be exposed to the masses and changed immediately. We have to ban together to change factory farming business. As always, it’s all about the money.

  • AdriannaJordan says:

    I am trying to go vegetarian for the first time. I just started yesterday. My friend is a vegetarian and we talked about it and i thought it would be cool. i am a teen that thinks animal raising for food is WRONG. I hope i will stick with this 🙂

  • Danielle Worrall says:

    I’ve been going back and forth with the idea of becomming a vegetarian. The peta web site has helped a lot in my decission. It is horrible that people who treat animals like this can even sleep at night!

  • CJMoore says:

    I am so disturbed over this video, I just cannot believe anyone can do this to an animal.

  • CJMoore says:

    I am so disturbed over this video, I just cannot believe anyone can do this to an animal.

  • Mady says:

    I have been a vegetarian since third grade, yes it IS possible! No one in my family is a vegetarian except for me, and it is hard sometimes but it is worth it! I would highly recommend this lifestyle and it is very helpful to my health, i find myself average weight 🙂 Hope this helps, i am a teen and find it very easy to be a vegetarian 😀

  • Tee_y says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years now and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I feel great and look great. While all my friends have gained weight, I have maintained my weight since high school. I am trying to cut out dairy as much as possible as it wreaks havoc on my skin. Being a vegetarian is one of the greatest things you will ever do for yourself or the environment.