* Re "Veganism, It's Not Just a Diet," April 14:
I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for many years and a vegan for several months. Contrary to what vegetarian activists fervently believe, there is no one diet that is suitable to all the world's cultures. In our most altruistic desires we may wish it true that everyone could subsist on tofu and carrots, but it is simply not the case. The average Eskimo, for example, cannot remain healthy on a vegetarian diet. It would be safe to assume that they would become ill after changing a diet they have followed for hundreds and thousands of years.
It would certainly benefit the majority of Americans to reduce their meat (and junk food!) consumption for their own personal health. But one must factor in the genetic heritage of the individual involved and not make blanket statements about diet. Those who are from cultures with long histories of meat-eating would be wise to taper off their meat consumption over a period of generations rather than quitting altogether.
We all should be very aware and educated as to our food choices, knowing that what we eat affects not only our own health but that of the planet itself. If on occasion one must eat meat, one should at least acknowledge the animal that gave its life, much as is done in indigenous cultures.
D. SURMANI MURDOCK
* The article mentioned many reasons why vegans do not consume animal products, including animal suffering and health factors. It should also be noted that an animal-based diet is extremely destructive to the environment.
Livestock production is the largest polluter of water in this country. Poisonous compounds from chemical fertilizers and pesticides used to produce animal feed grains are washed by rains, untreated, into our waters. This is in addition to the runoff containing some of the billions of pounds of excrement produced by cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens each year.
An animal-based diet consumes tremendous quantities of water. One-half of all water used in the U.S. is used by the meat industry. We have damaged or destroyed ecosystems by diverting water to irrigate the pasture and crops that livestock eat. And 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to raise food for animals. Cattle ranching has destroyed more rain forest in Central America than any other activity. Deforestation not only wipes out habitat, it is also a major contributor to global warming. Reducing the animal products in our diet is the single most effective step anyone can take to protect our environment.