I realize this has been said before, in many ways, and I've been silent on the topic. And, a lot of people here are already vegetarian - or vegan.
As for me, I've recently moved my own personal classification from "picky eater/omnivore" to "bad vegetarian." Meat isn't 100% gone, but I feel like a reduction in the meat that I eat is still helping out. Also, it's a lot more polite at business dinners for me to say "I am a vegetarian" than to say "I don't eat beef for one reason, don't eat pork for another, I'll eat some chicken but not that one, and - is that farm-raised salmon or wild?"
I found a really nice website that sums up the argument for why you may consider reducing the amount of meat in your diet. Links are behind each cut.
The land, the water, and the air are being devastated by the over-use of natural resources in the massive production of animals used for food.
* Twenty vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed one person consuming a meat–based diet.
* More than half of all the water used in the United States is used in livestock production.
* A University of California study shows that it takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat; it takes 2,500 gallons to produce one pound of meat.
* Tropical rainforests in Latin America are being destroyed in order to support the demand for meat in the United States.
* Nearly 3 trillion pounds of solid animal waste is produced each year which equals five tons of fecal animal waste for each person in the U.S. Nationwide, 130 times more animal manure is produced than human waste.
* Animal waste carries parasites, bacteria, and viruses and can pollute drinking water with high levels of nitrates, which are potentially fatal to infants and harmful to all.
* Runoff from animal waste often winds up in lakes, oceans, and streams, accounting for more water pollution than all other human activities combined, including industry and municipal sewers. Millions of fish and other aquatic species have been killed as a result.
In the U.S. alone, over 8.6 billion animals are slaughtered each year for human consumption. They are slaughtered in high speed production-line fashion as if they are inanimate objects.
* Regulations requiring ‘humane’ slaughter are rarely enforced, and birds (who represent more than 85% of animals killed for food) are not included in these regulations. Animals are often cut, skinned, scalded, and/or drowned while still alive.
* Cows are forced to produce 10 times the milk they would naturally generate to feed their calves. The vast majority of U.S. cows suffer from mastitis and other diseases of the udder. Once their production level drops (usually around the age of five), the cows are slaughtered for low-grade beef.
* Male calves, a lucrative "by-product" of the dairy industry, are raised in solitary confinement for veal. Most are taken from their mothers just 24 hours after birth. For 16 weeks, calves are chained by the neck while isolated and held in small crates. To keep their flesh pale, calves are fed iron-deficient diets.
* Restrained in stalls barely bigger than their bodies, sows are continually impregnated and forced to produce piglets in intensive confinement. Living in their own excrement on concrete floors, pigs often suffer from pneumonia and lung damage and constant foot and ankle pain. Boars are routinely castrated without pain killers or anesthesia.
* Egg-laying hens are crammed inside wire cages so tightly they cannot stretch a wing. They are ‘de-beaked’ with a hot blade, and are likely to suffer from a number of health problems. After a year of laying eggs, hens are slaughtered for their meat. In the breeding of laying hens, any males born (more than 200 million a year) are discarded on-site, which usually means dumping them into a trashbag to suffocate them or grinding them into feed.
* Due to the overfishing of sea animals to dangerously low population levels, aquatic animals are now ‘raised’ on factory farms where millions of them are crowded into concrete pools. Bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and waste run off into waterways infecting people, animals, and the entire ecosystem.
* Food industry experiments are a booming business in the U.S. Solely to increase profits. Animals are genetically altered to grow bigger and faster to unnatural proportions, causing extreme discomfort and suffering. Often, animals’ bodies are unable to physically support their artificially overgrown muscles––the parts people eat.
* Since farmed animals are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act and state anti-cruelty laws, it is often considered more cost effective for a farmer to let a suffering animal die than to medically treat her/him.