We live in a time when meat has never been more abundant. Yet never before have so many people voluntarily passed up a charbroiled steak for a simple plate of beans and rice. Why? Various spokespeople, including doctors, nutritionists, religious teachers, moral philosophers, and animal rights activists, have provided compelling justifications for not eating meat. Although we find these views to be of interest, they are not the primary subject matter of our book. Instead, this book is about ordinary people—the rank and file of the vegetarian movement. We allow vegetarians to speak for themselves and to describe, in their own words, how and why they came to take the first difficult steps in abstaining from animal flesh and the implications this had for their personal and social lives.
We have written this book for several reasons. First, the topic of vegetarianism is a timely and important one. Recent medical research indicates that a high-fat, low-fiber diet centered on meat is a contributing factor in cardiovascular disease— the leading cause of death in the United States today. The typical American diet has also been linked to several forms of cancer, including cancer of the colon, breast, cervix, uterus, ovaries, and prostate. A better understanding of the ways in which vegetarians have reorganized their lives to stop eating meat should make it easier for nonvegetarians to modify their own consumption of animal foods. Second, we find vegetarianism to be an intriguing personal and social phenomenon. Although there are many books available on meatless cooking and vegetarian issues, we know of no other work that shows why people