Well, I must say, the protein argument really gets to me :
We north-americans, eat WAY too much protein. Ok, it may make some people lose weight but we all should read on the long-term effect of too much protein. This is not a joke. Even most vegetarians eat too much protein, they sometimes eat MORE of them than meat-eaters.
Researchs done by "the meat industry" or the "egg industry" really make me laugh out loud. They don't care about our health, they care about the money and not having to change themselves.
Generally, when we compare a meat diet to a non-meat diet, first and foremost, we're not even talking about a basic good diet.
If you eliminate all things refined and processed, then its a good start. Next, variety !!! A wide selection of flour : barley, rye, wheat, millet, spelt, etc. A wide selection of nuts, seeds, vegetables.
Variety, freshness, quality is the key. If you read french, I'll suggest a wonderful book. It's a complete course on healthy and natural eating. Changed my life and made thing a whole lot easier.
I love Erin's comment : meat is a cadaver. That is what it is. It's start rotting, like a human does right after death.
I agree with everything Oatmeal said, too.
I think that the reasons for vegetarianism change over time. When I first tried it, it was after seeing Babe and City Slickers. But it was hard for me because I didn't know anything about
eating well. That came over the years, reading many books like
Diet for a Small Planet, or Dr.Weil's book on eating, and so many others. I also shopped more in health food stores and tried so many new and wonderful things. Then I realized that I was feeling a lot better, physically, mentally, spiritually. In the last two years, I really learned more about the environmental damage the meat industry and this way of life is doing to our planet. How the soy we're feeding the cattle could feed the thousands and thousands of children who starve to death each week. I learned how we, mostly north-americans, are really wasting natural resources. I feel shame over that. I learned also that to be a vegetarian, means not eating animals, wherever they live in trees, on earth or in water. Before that, I though that fish didn't count as an animal. I believed that being a vegetarian was about "meat", and that was hard because people don't agree on what is and isn't "meat". I have read also, the teaching of great minds like Einstein, Thoreau, GB Shaw, Tolstoï, etc.
When I saw a show where people in "is it Korea ?" ate cats and dogs, that really made me question the "not eating intelligent animals" question. The animals we eat are intelligent, sentient animals who give and feel love. Who feel pain. Who will cry if you take their babies away. A dog really knows you. When you're sad, he comes over to comfort you, he also tries to make you laugh, and when he wants to annoy you, he knows what to do. A person in Korea would eat him without even thinking about it. And that person also believes that the more he suffers before death, the more tender the meat will be.
It is not something that only non-North-Americans do. We do that here with calves. What atrocities they suffers so that their flesh will be white.
I know that I didn't become a vegetarian overnight, as I am not becoming a vegan overnight. So I have a lot of respect for people who want to learn and do better but have a hard time of it. The first years, when I ate chicken, I didn't lie to myself saying it wasn't what it was. I tried to be patient with myself. I kept a list of great books, great quotes from wonderful people, and wonderful recipes very close by. My reasons for not eating animals changed often but I can honestly say that now, it is a complete choice, and my kids, who refused to eat animals really made me take that step totally.
So, if you ask me why I'm a vegetarian, I'll say "for all the reasons" !
edited to add this link http://forest.fireshui.com/care/31veg.html