The Compassionate Diet


Now What You Eat Can Change Your Life and Save the Planet, by Arran Stephens, with Eliot Jay Rosen, New York: Rodale, 2011

Page Contents

Arguments for Vegetarianism


This is a fantastic little book. I was reading it in one day right after having received it from Amazon. I was rendered very curious about it as Dr. Gabriel Cousens quoted so much from it. My purpose of this review is thus to put it all in a much shorter framework and quote the most important facts from the book. I will not quote any of the more poetic and heart-boggling statements, nor any of the beautiful quotes it contains. Nor can I render homage to the wonderful design of the book here.

I can only say that the authors have really done their job well, so much important information in such a small space, really ‘nutrition in a nutshell.’ And I will quote the resources entirely which is entitled ‘Reasons for Vegetarianism’ as this is so well put together. You have to read 200 pages of Dr. Cousens’ books to get that simple information. This is a bestselling 5-star book, no doubt about it, written with authority and with a great heart! If anybody who will not switch to a vegetarian diet who has read this book, this person must be a die-hard insensitive nerd!


—Globally, we feed 756 million tons of grain to farmed animals per year. As Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer notes, if we fed that grain to the 1.4 billion people who are living in abject poverty, each of them would be provided with more than half a ton of grain, or about three pounds of grain per day—that’s twice the amount they would need to survive. And that doesn’t even include the 225 million tons of soy that is produced every year, almost all of which is fed to farmed animals. /16

—If everyone become a vegetarian for just one day, the United States would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock
  • 70 million gallons of gas—enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico, with planty to spare
  • 3 million acres of land
  • 33 tons of antibiotics
  • Greenhouse gas emissions equal to 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide—as much as produced by all of France
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages
  • 4.5 million tons of animal excrement
  • Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant

According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead. the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than 500,000 cars off the US roads. /17

—We recommend watching The Meatrix, an animated film posted at, for an entertaining but serious look at factory farms. /22

Vegetarianism, like ethical living in general, is foundational to spiritual growth and the development of universal consciousness and love. According to many of the world’s wisdom traditions, meat eating is antiethical to achieving these states of expanded awareness. /23

—If the body is the temple of God, pure vegetarian food, obtained honestly and eaten in moderation, helps maintain excellent health while improving one’s powers of concentration. Concentration is crucial not just for meditation, but for success in any endeavor, whether spiritual, academic, scientific, artistic, or professional. /24

—According to a Loma Linda University study, vegetarians live about seven years longer and vegans about fifteen years longer than meat eaters. /29

—The Cornell-China-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Environment and Health, conducted by Cornell University, Oxford University, and Chinese researchers—to date the largest population study on the relationship of diet to health—found that those Chinese who ate the last amount of animal products had correspondingly lower risks of cancer, heart attacks, and other chronic degenerative diseases. A British study tracked 6,000 vegetarians and 5,000 meat eaters for twelve years and found that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to die from cancer during that time and 20 percent less likely to die from other diseases. /29

—In the United States alone, the health cost of meat consumption is estimated to be up to $60 billion a year due to the higher prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and food-borne illness among omnivores as compared with vegetarians. /48

—The World Health Organization recommends only 25 grams of protein per day. The American Meat Board recommends 75 grams, contributing to excess protein consumption, which is linked to increased incidence of degenerative disease. /50

—As long as one eats enough calories drawn from whole plant foods, getting enough protein from a vegetarian diet will not be an issue. /50

—Those who eat meat-centered diets need to consume more calcium than those who eat plant-based diets because the excess acidity produced by animal foods requires more alkaline-forming calcium to buffer the bloodstream from this acid onslaught. /52

—A study published by the International Journal of Cancer concluded that red meat is strongly associated with breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute says that women who eat meat every day are nearly four times more likely to get breast cancer than those who do not eat meat. In contrast, women who consume at least one serving of vegetables a day reduce their risk of breast cancer by 20 to 30 percent, according to the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study. /60

—Studies done at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg suggest that the immune systems of vegetarians are more effective in killing off tumor cells than those of meat eaters are and that a plant-based diet also helps protect against prostate, colon, and skin cancers. /60–61

—For someone raised in a meat-eating family, eating animal foods may have been part of the family tradition for centuries and may also feel right. To that person, meats tastes good, smells good, and makes his or her feel good. Yet something having been common practice over time and feeling good does not constitute valid justification for the ethical merit of an action. If this were so, human slavery, the unequal treatment of women, even cannibalism would be acceptable in some societies on the grounds of ‘tradition.’ /69

—The ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ of eating mea cannot be based on mere personal preferences unless one hold the equally questionable ethical stance that ‘might makes right’—that the stronger should be able to use the weaker however they please simply because they are more powerful. Such logic would support the euthanasia of infants with birth defects, and senile, the comatose, and the infirm—there would be no basis for the protection of the helpless and for those who do not ‘contribute’ to society. We sould live out our lives in fear of death, knowing that the life spans of our loved ones and ourselves could be cut short at any time. /70

—To live by the principle of ahimsa is important not only for the sake of animals, but also for our own spiritual welfare. According to many spiritual traditions, a heavy karmic debt is accrued if one fails to live a nonviolent life. This weighs down the soul to such a degree that spiritual progress is slowed; some could lose their hard-earned human status and experience future birth in another form of life. /73

—The ‘selective killing’ argument erroneously equates the taking of the life of a mammal, bird, or other animal with the self-evidently lesser sin of uprooting a turnip or harvesting grain. Spiritual adepts tell us there is some karmic penalty involved in the harvesting and eating of plants, but only a contrarian would insist that the snuffing out of the life of an animal, or a child for that matter, is on equal footing with the beheading of carrots and the boiling of potatoes! /75

—According to karmic theory, the consumption of plants results in little karmic consequences, the killing of certain insects and reptiles requires more karmic repayment, and the killing of birds and mammals results in more severe karmic penalities. Taking a human life carries the greatest consequence; it may result in life imprisonment or the death penalty in this lifetime or in a future lifetime. /76–77

—According to Ayurveda, foods that are calming, balancing, and energy giving are sattvic (Sanskrit for ‘pure’), because they inherently promote good health and are conducive to spiritual development. In this category are most fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, nuts, and dairy products (if procured in a compassionate way). From the Ayurvedic perspective, the larger the percentage of sattvic foods eaten, the better, for they are ‘in the mode of goodness’ and promote a healthy society and world. /80

—The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization issued a nearly 400-page report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow that identified the world’s rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests, and wildlife. They were also blamed for a host of other environmental problems, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from desertification and dead zones in the oceans, from poisoned rivers and drinking water sources to destroyed coral reefs. The report also surveyed the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs, and goats. But in almost every case, the world’s 1.5 billion cattle were judged to be most in blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Their intestinal gas and manure produce more than one-third of the world’s emissions of methane, which warms the world twenty times faster than carbon dioxide. And the fuel that’s used to produce fertilizer to grow the feed that produces meat and to transport it—and to clear existing vegetation for grazing—produces 9 percent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. /84–85

—The impact of animal-based foods on the environment is as staggering as it is complex. Animal food production directly causes the destruction of tropical rain forests and the extinction of thousands of species that live in these botanical treasure houses; massive water shortages, vast ‘dead zones’ in the open ocean, and pollution of waterways, groundwater, and air; and the exacerbation of human starvation by feeding grain to animals instead of hungry humans. Roughly one-fifth of the world’s land is used for grazing, twice the area used for growing crops. Much of this land provided habitat for indigenous flora and fauna before it was cleared for livestock. /85

—Several decades ago, social scientists in China did a cost-benefit analysis of cattle raising for food and concluded that the beef industry would ruin the country. This is why to this day there are very few large beef cattle operations in China. /86

—Meat production requires more water than raising crops. For example, 283 grams (10 ounces) of beef requires eighty-five times more water to produce than the same amount of potatoes. Poor farming practices and erosion destroy land fertility. At a minimum, 75 percent of all US topsoil has been lost to date. Eighty-five percent of this loss is directly related to livestock grazing. /86

—In the United States alone, more than 260 million acres of forestland have been cleared to create the cropland used in producing the nation’s meat-centered diet. Fifty-five square feet of tropical rain forest are consumed to produce every quarter-pound of rain forest beef. /86

—In December 1997, the US Senate Agriculture Committee relased a report stating that animals raised for food produce 150 times as much excrement as the entire US human population, roughly 68,000 pounds per second, all disposed of without the benefit of waste treatment. This makes its way into the groundwater sources from which people drlink. /86–87

—The book The Meat Business argues that global factory farming could lead to environmental and social devastation. In the next two decades, the problem of how to feed at least 8 billion people while protecting our land, water, air, and wild species will become increasingly urgent. The spread of intensive animal farming throughout the world is not a sustainable solution. /87–88

—If all the arable lands in the world were converted to organic production, the carbon reduction in the atmosphere would be akin to removing 3.5 billion exhaust-spewing cars from the roads! /90

—By sequestering about 1.5 trillion pounds of CO2 in the soil each year and reducing fossil fuel energy inputs by 50 percent (producing commercial fertilizing requires lots of energy) organic farming could reduce atmospheric CO2 by 1.1 trillion pounds a year. Conventional farming adds 925 billion pounds of CO2 pollutant to the atmosphere each year. /92

Arguments for Vegetarianism

These lists are reproduced with the kind permission of John Robbins, founder of the EarthSave Foundation, from ‘How to Win an Argument with a Meat-Eater,’ a post giving statistics from the book Diet for a New America.Please visit

The Ethical Argument

  • Number of animals killed for meat per hour in the United States: 660,000
  • Occupation with highest turnover rate in the United States: slaughterhouse worker
  • Occupation with highest rate of on-the-job injury in the United States: slaughterhouse worker

The Hunger Argument

  • Number of people worldwide who will die as a result of malnutrition this year: 20 million
  • Number of people who could be adequately fed using land freed if Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10 percent: 100 million
  • Percentage of corn grown in the United States eaten by people. 20
  • Percentage of corn grown in the United States by livestock: 80
  • Percentage of oats grown in the United States eaten by livestock: 95
  • Percentage of protein wasted by cycling grain through livestock: 90
  • How frequently a child dies as a result of malnutrition: every 2.3 seconds
  • Pounds of potatoes that can be grown on an acre: 40,000
  • Pounds of beef grown on a acre: 250
  • Percentage of US farmland devoted to beef production: 56
  • Pounds of grain and soybeans needed to produce a pound of edible flesh from feedlot beef: 16

The Environmental Argument

  • Cause of global warming greenhouse effect
  • Primary cause of greenhouse effect: carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels
  • Fossil fuels needed to produce meat-centered diet vs. a meat-free diet: 3 times more
  • Percentage of US topsoil lost to date: 75
  • Percentage of US topsoil loss directly related to raising livestock: 85
  • Number of acres of US forest cleared for cropland to produce meat-centered diet: 260 million
  • Amount of meat imported to United States annually from Central and South America: 300,000,000 pounds
  • Percentage of Central American children under the age of five who are undernourished: 75
  • Area of tropical rain forest consumed in every quarterpound of rain forest beef: 55 square feet
  • Current rate of species extinction due to destruction of tropical rain forests for meat grazing and other uses: 1,000 per year

The Survival Argument

  • Athlete to win Ironman Triathlon more than twice: Dave Scott (6-time winner)
  • Food choice of Dave Scott: vegetarian
  • Largest meat eater that ever lived: Tyrannosaurus rex (Where is he today?)

The Cancer Argument

  • Increased risk of breast cancer for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week: 3.8 times
  • For women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week: 2.8 times
  • For women who eat butter and cheese 2 to 4 times a week: 3.25 times
  • Increased risk of fatal ovarian cancer for women who eat eggs 3 or more times a week vs. less than once a week: 3 times
  • Increase risk of fatal prostate cancer for men who consume, meat, cheese, eggs, and milk daily vs. sparingly or not at all: 3.6 times

The Cholesterol Argument

  • Number of US medical schools: 125
  • Number requiring a course in nutrition: 30
  • Nutrition training received by average US physicians during four years in medical school: 2.5 hours
  • Most common cause of death in the United States: heart attack
  • How frequently a heart attack kills in the United States: every 45 seconds
  • Average US man’s risk of death from heart attack: 50 percent
  • Risk of average US man who eats no meat: 15 percent
  • Risk of average US man who eats no meat, dairy, or eggs: 4 percent
  • Amount you reduce risk of heart attack if you reduce consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 10 percent: 9 percent
  • Amount you reduce risk of heart attack if you reduce consumption by 50 percent: 45 percent
  • Amount you reduce risk if you eliminate meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet: 90 percent
  • Average cholesterol level of people eating meat-centered diet: 210 mg/dl
  • Chance of dying from heart disease if you are male and your blood cholesterol level is 210 mg/dl: greater than 50 percent

The Natural Resources Argument

  • User of more than half of all water used for all purposes in the United States: livestock production
  • Amount of water used in production of the average cow: sufficient to float a destroyer
  • Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of wheat: 25
  • Gallons of water needed to produce a pount of California beef: 5,000
  • Years the world’s known oil reserves should last if every human ate a meat-centered diet: 13
  • Years they would last if humans no longer ate meat: 260
  • Calories of fossil fuel expended to get one calorie of protein from beef: 78
  • To get 1 calorie of protein from soybeans: 2
  • Percentage of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry, and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by United States that is devoted to the production of livestock: 33
  • Percentage of all raw materials consumed by the United States needed to produce a complete vegetarian diet: 2

The Antibiotic Argument

  • Percentage of US antibiotics fed to livestock: 55
  • Percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin in 1960: 13
  • Percentage resistant in 1988: 91
  • Response of European Economic Community to routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock: ban
  • Response of US meat and pharmaceutical industries to routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock: full and complete support

The Pesticide Argument

  • Common belief: US Department of Agriculture protects our health through meat inspection
  • Reality: Fewer than 1 out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical residues
  • Percentage of US mothers’ milk containing significant levels of DDT: 99
  • Percentage of US vegetarian mothers’s milk containing significant levels of DDT: 8
  • Contamination of breast milk, due to chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in animal products, found in meat-eating mothers vs. non meat-eating mothers: 33 times higher
  • Amount of dieldrin ingested by the average breat-fed American infant: 9 times the permissible level
Categories Ecoliteracy, VegetarianismTags , ,

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