"Being a vegetarian is a win-win situation. The animals win; the environment wins; and people win by living healthier, longer lives."
Thank you for a very evenhanded, intelligent report on the trend toward vegetarian and vegan diets [HEALTH, July 15]. It's encouraging to see that, whether out of compassion for animals or a concern for their own health (or both), people are starting to realize that it doesn't pay to eat too far up on the food chain. Meat needn't be what is for dinner. Factory farming is barbaric and cruel. Every person who reduces the use of animals in his or her life is performing a lifesaving act.
Huntingdon Valley, Pa.
Why praise food extremists like vegetarians? Our planet offers such diversity in available foods, it seems almost rude not to better our bodies with variety. Eat your steak, and have your broccoli too. Variety is the spice of life.
I'm ready to be a vegetarian, but America's farmers, food producers, restaurants and supermarkets are not prepared to support me. It's much easier and less expensive to get a hamburger at McDonald's or Chinese takeout or a roast chicken from the supermarket than it is to take the time to shop for, assemble and cook a tasty, nutritious and fulfilling vegetarian meal.
New York City
I've heard another term for pesco-pollo-vegetarians: beady-eyed vegetarians. Basically, they'll eat things with beady eyes (lobster, fish, chicken) but not with big, sad, Bambi eyes (cows, lambs). This definition sounds flaky, but a friend of mine explained it by saying he would eat only things he thought he could kill himself. He figures he can kill a fish but not a cow. That seems like a more honest and consistent rationale than some of the others I've heard.
I have been an ethical vegan for more than 10 years and have found that there is great misunderstanding about vegan principles in our society. While some vegetarians and vegans abstain from animals as a matter of health, we ethical vegans don't want other animals to live for us, nor do we want other animals to die for us, as they do for food, clothing and wasteful scientific research. All animals live for their own sake, not for mine.
Why do some people think animals and human beings are the same? In my opinion, a human life is worth a lot more than an animal's. We must stop thinking of meat eaters as killers. Vegetarians also kill vegetable life. Is there any difference? Eat vegetables and meat; both help you to be healthy and allow you to have all the nutrients your body needs.
ENRIQUE S. LORES
I'm a second-generation vegetarian. My mom is an 87-year-old vegetarian who still works out daily. All her friends who used to make fun of her diet are, sadly, no longer with us.
Marina del Rey, Calif.
While we are quite rightly opposed to the death of creatures for the purpose of feeding a gluttonous North American society, it is the method employed in the raising of animals that is equally, if not more, objectionable. In fact, for factory-farmed animals, death must be a happy release from a life of sheer misery.
The answer to your question "Should You Be a Vegetarian?" is most definitely yes! A vegetarian diet is healthier. Our ancestors obviously would not have survived had they not been carnivores, but there is no nutritional argument for meat eating today. Vegetarianism is truly an evolutionary step forward.
JAMES L. HARDEMAN, M.D.
After listening to vegetarians who argue for sparing the lives of animals, I have to ask, Why is eating a live oyster a greater crime than eating a live broccoli stalk plucked from the garden bed?
JOHN LASKAS SR.
How One Airport Copes
I could not agree more with your assessment of Denver International Airport as the best-run airport in the U.S. [AIRPORT SECURITY, July 15]. I recently had the pleasure of catching a flight out of there. In addition to being extremely thorough, every single employee I encountered was very nice. My ID and ticket were checked three times, and agents actually looked at my face and my picture. Agents asked me where I was from and where I was going. I did not feel as though I was being interrogated, as much as I felt I was being engaged in a friendly conversation. Seeing the folks at DIA smiling and thanking passengers has restored my faith in flying.
We can't achieve perfect airport security, but we can come much closer to it than the apologists for random searches would have us believe. The proof is that for years there have been no successful hijackings of Israeli airliners. As one Israeli airport official put it, "Americans look for weapons. We look for terrorists." Israelis truly profile, and profiling works.