My decision to go vegetarian came in 1995, when my mother was fighting breast cancer. My parents had done some research into ways to help her survive, and as a result eating a vegetarian diet quickly became an important part of her cancer survival plan. The whole family gave up meat with her, and I enjoyed it so much that I never went back.
A little less than a year ago, I went a step further, trying a 99% vegan diet to improve my own health (the 1% that is not vegan includes fish oil supplements and honey). The dramatic improvement in my wellbeing has motivated not only me, but also my husband, children, and even a neighbor to say goodbye to eating animal products for good.
There are other benefits to giving up or reducing your meat consumption besides health and wellness. One is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the food you consume does not cause suffering to other creatures. I know that sounds a little woo-woo, but the reality of our current agricultural industry is that the vast majority of our food-producing animals live short, brutal lives far from the happy farm images we learned in pre-school. My heart is lighter knowing that I no longer participate in that industry. Kumbaya and all that crap.
Another benefit of a plant-centered diet is that it reduces the environmental impact of our food. Making meat uses more land and water than growing vegetables, in large part because we need to devote large amounts of land and water just to growing the grains to feed the meat in addition to the land and water used to raise the meat. If the current trends of increased global meat consumption and population growth continue, we simply will not have enough land to provide food for everyone. The earth, contrary to some really wacko theories, is not getting any bigger. The most viable way to provide a growing population with enough dietary protein would therefore be to adopt a diet with more plant-based proteins, as discussed in this article from GOOD:
Tofu, tempeh, and seitan are inexpensive plant proteins that are the workhorses of a modern vegan diet. I can get a pound of organic tempeh for $3, a pound of organic tofu for under $2, and make a huge batch of seitan (enough for 3-4 meals) for under $6. Cheap, versatile, easy to prepare, minimally processed, and better for the environment, this trio of vegan proteins will likely become more widely used as the global population continues to expand and we need to make more efficient use of our agricultural land.