Sure, being a vegan/vegetarian has loads of personal health benefits. Vegetarians and vegans are generally at a lower risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. I've even read studies swearing that people who avoid animal products have slimmer waistlines and an overall lower BMI than meat eaters. I could go on about the other health and beauty plusses of eliminating meat and such, but I'm thinking on a more global level.
Have you ever thought about how environmentally taxing your dinner is? Global climate change, deforestation, pollution and water waste can all be attributed to the meat industry. More than a quarter of Earth's land is used for raising livestock. To keep up with demand, countless acres of land have been deforested worldwide to make room for animals headed for slaughter. Even more land has been cleared to grow feed for the animals. Oh the pesticides and fertilizers! These chemicals end up in places you don't even want to think about, like your drinking water.
In addition to all the land cleared, think of all the water needed to raise the animals that end up on your plate. Half of the water used in the U.S. supplies the livestock and the feed crops. Half! That 16 oz. steak you're gorging on? It took hundreds of gallons of water to end up in your stomach. That's 15 times more water than required for an equal amount of plant protein. Consider where all that water ends up. I'm reminded of a documentary I saw years ago on the poultry industry. Poultry on the Potomac alleged that the Potomac River was on the list of the 10 most endangered rivers in North America due to pollution from the poultry industry. It claimed runoff from the numerous poultry farms into the river was responsible for outbreaks of toxic microbes that make the river intolerable for some aquatic life.
Plenty of people eliminate animal products to avoid antibiotics and hormones that are administered to the animals from entering their bodies, but even with a plant based diet they may still be exposed. Antibiotics have been found in crops such as potatoes, lettuce, spinach and corn that have been grown in manure. Ninety percent of drugs given to livestock end up in their manure, polluting not only the crops that may grow in it, but also the surrounding environment when absorbed by the soil or washed into surrounding aquatic ecosystems.
Raising livestock contributes more greenhouse gasses than even transportation. Transportation is a necessary part of most lives, but eating meat? It doesn't have to be. By making the switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, you help yourself, the environment, and countless animals. I know this is easier said than done, but any reduction in animal product will have significance. There's a plethora of animal friendly recipes on the internet, like Resolution Kitchen (yes, that's a shameless plug), to help you get started, or to continue your veggie lifestyle. To those of you who think it can't be done, I challenge you to start by eliminating animal product from your meals just once a week. Now imagine doing that for every meal. Not so hard, is it?