Uncle Sam has finally given us a figure worth knowing about: In the government's first estimate of how many children avoid meat, the number is about 1 in 200.
It's not necessarily the most accurate number, this one coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are other surveys claiming that the real rate of vegetarianism among older teens could be four to six times that amount.
It's way cool because it means American kids are finally recognizing the healthful and possibly even the compassionate reasons for avoiding meat—reasons the powerful factory farming lobby has tried to cover up for decades and decades. The health reasons are obvious: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, and we could eradicate much of it if we ate properly. Cholesterol, or animal fat, is a huge contributor to human heart disease. I always say that animals bite back. You eat them; they kill you. It's pretty simple.
But what's even more exciting about the CDC's findings is that some of the trend toward vegetarianism may be based on a rise in compassion among young folks:
Anecdotally, adolescent vegetarianism seems to be rising, thanks in part to YouTube animal slaughter videos that shock the developing sensibilities of many U.S. children. But there isn't enough long-term data to prove that, according to government researchers.
Let's hope over time these researchers find out they're right.