Why am I a vegetarian?
The most difficult situation that I encounter during my travels is getting vegetarian food. In some parts of the world chefs don’t even understand the meaning of vegetarianism. They would ask: “Vegetables? We would provide you veg salads with dressing on it…”
How can I explain it to them that my diet is pre-dominantly carbohydrates. Nobody serves you Idly or Dosa in Western restaurants! Nobody knows about your Tali meals.
So you will have to adjust with biscuits, no-egg cakes and coke.
The sad thing about being vegetarian is wherever I go in the West, I become a serious head-ache for the host. Especially, during the US/European press conference and meetings. I become a “problem man” for them.
Some journalist friends ask me – why are you so adamant about being vegetarian? Is it because you are born in a Brahmin family?
No. Normally Brahmins “were” vegetarian. But a majority of Brahmin caste that I was born in, eat fish (except in some parts of Kerala state).
But my ancestors were following strict vegetarian diet (at least, for traceable few centuries). So I cannot deny the influence of tradition in my childhood.
Now-a-days I hardly find any vegetarians in our community. And today’s Brahmin boys and girls proudly acclaim that “we eat meat and fish.” – As if they have achieved the biggest award in the universe.
“Why am I a vegetarian?,” one of my friends asked me.
The usual reasons for choosing vegetarianism may be related to moral, religious, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, environmental, social, economic, political, taste, or health concerns.
Vegetarians quote three main reasons for this, based on religious and ehtical teachings they have: (1) the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa) applied to animals (2) the intention to offer only “pure” (vegetarian) food to a deity and then to receive it back as Prasad and (3) and the conviction that non-vegetarian food is detrimental for the mind and for spiritual development.
These are all generalised reasons. Though these theories support me being a vegetarian, I don;t subscribe to these theories as a whole. Vegetarians also have “holier-thank-thou” attitude which is a fanaticism. Also, I don’t think vegetarian foods will keep you 100 percent healthier than non-vegetarian. health-wise Veg is far better, but that’s not all.
I said: “My first concern about non-veg food is that I can’t bear the smell – decaying animal parts, whether in a freezer case or served in restaurants, can never be as aesthetically pleasing to the senses as the same foods made from wholesome vegetable sources…”
“But non-vegetarian food also have good smell…” he said.
“If you get good smell, thank it to Masala that made of vegetarian plants,” I replied, “I wonder how can a person happily eat a dish that contains body of a once living being.Just think of the the pain that living being must have got while being killed to prepare the dish..”
So the major reason I would like to present is that I would like to uphold non-violence. Those who understand the principles of vegetarianism, will not involve in violence of any forms. (Understanding vegetarianism, not just being vegetarians – Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian)
….. For me, non-vegetarian food is DEAD FLESH. The moment I see I can feel the vibration of violence there. It is a dead body of a poor creature. And human beings are eating the dead-body. It is an act of violence for me.
“Ha ha…plant also has life..” he teased me
“Friend, if you have no empathy to the pain of the animals whenyou cut it, you don’ have the moral authority to talk about the life of a plant….but let me asnwer that question…” I said, “Vegetarians do not consume plant parts that won’t grow again. They are not killing the plant. What’s more, by eating fruits and vegetables, you help plant to spread its seeds. You become part of ecological balance and cosmic creativity..”
I have learned botony till my PUC. Plants do not have any known central nervous system, so perhaps they do not feel pain. But that even I am not sure. Who knows tomorrow botanists may find one?
Though plants are living being, they are in different kingdom. It works on simple physical and bio-chemical principles. Plant cells have chloroplast to produce food and large part of its intracellular space is occupied by a organelle called vacuoles. It is meant to store food.
“Plants are made to create food for themselves and the animals. Animal cells can’t produce food on their own…” I said.
As George Bernard Shaw said: ‘Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay.”
However, if you want to find reasons as to why people turn to vegetarianism, I have lot of answers that have been extracted from various references.
– The Human anatomy is fit to be vegetarian only. Human beings are most similar to other herbivores, and drastically different from carnivores. Human characteristics are in every way like the fruit eaters, very similar to the grass- eater, and very unlike the meat eaters. The human digestive system, tooth and jaw structure, and bodily functions are completely different from carnivorous animals.
– As in the case of the anthropoid ape, the human digestive system is twelve times the length of the body; our skin has millions of tiny pores to evaporate water and cool the body by sweating; we drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals; our tooth and jaw structure is vegetarian; and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptyalin for predigesting of grains. Human beings clearly are not carnivores by physiology – our anatomy and digestive system show that we must have evolved for millions of years living on fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables.
– The animals do not chew their food. Instead, they slice off huge chunks of meat and swallow them whole. They do not have digestive enzymes in their saliva since flesh-digesting enzymes released in the unprotected mouth would quickly destroy the oral cavity. Their strongly acidic stomachs are huge storage vats that account for 60-70% of the total capacity of their GI tracts. Meat has no fiber and is, therefore, easily digested. Thus, their small intestines are very short (only 3-6 times their body length) and are optimized for protein and fat absorption. Their large intestines are short straight and smooth and designed for evacuation purposes only.
– We have a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme in our saliva called salivary amylase. The human esophagus does not handle poorly chewed food very well. Over 90% of the people who choke to death each year choke on meat. Human body length (head to tail bone) is typically 2.5 to 3 feet. Thus, at >25-30 feet in length, the human small intestine is clearly designed for digesting plant material. Only herbivores have an appendix. No matter how much fat and cholesterol you feed carnivores like dogs and cats, they NEVER develop coronary artery disease. In places where people eat a high fiber, whole food diet, appendicitis and diverticulosis are unknown.
Humans are physiologically better suited to a vegetarian.
– Ask yourself: When you see dead animals on the side of the road, are you tempted to stop for a snack? Does the sight of a dead bird make you salivate? Do you daydream about killing cows with your bare hands and eating them raw? Humans were simply not designed to eat meat. Humans lack both the physical characteristics of carnivores and the instinct that drives them to kill animals and devour their raw carcasses.
How can one practice true compassion that eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh? Would you kill your pet dog or cat to eat it? How about an animal you’re not emotionally attached to? Isn’t it barbaric to kill them for our food while we have reasonable options?
If you learn anthropology and human evolution, you would understand that early humans were largely vegetarian. Scientists and Nutritional experts believe that humans evolved into eating meat as a result of huge climatic changes that took place about three-four million years ago, forests and jungles dried up and became open grasslands, thus opening up hunting and scavenging opportunities.
Scientists and naturalists, including the great Charles Darwin who gave the theory of evolution, agree that early humans were fruit and vegetable eaters and that throughout history our anatomy has not changed. The great Swedish scientist von Linne states: “Man’s structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food.”
There are Pathogenic Microorganisms – a host of bacteria and viruses, some quite dangerous, that are common to animals. When you eat meat, you eat the organisms in the meat. Micro-organisms are present in plant foods too, but their number and danger to human health is by no means comparable to that of those in meat.
Meat eating increases the risk of heart disease. It’s the primary reason we get heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and every other major degenerative disease.(I contest this argument, as I have seen similar kind of diseases in vegetarians too.) But when an animal is killed, its body stiffens due to the pain, suffering and fear. It releases a whole load of hormones which are not suitable for human bodies.
Studies in western countries have shown that on average, vegetarians have smarter children, suffer significantly lower rates of chronic disease, obesity and dementia, and live longer than their meat-eating counterparts. The more meat we eat, the sicker we get. (I am not sure about this argument too). It shows that meat is poison to us. If eating meat were natural, it wouldn’t destroy our health.
Those health freaks say that vegetarians are better in physical performance: People have much better endurance when they don’t eat meat – whether they’re professional athletes or not.
There is no question that humans are capable of digesting meat. But just because we can digest animals does not mean we’re supposed to, or that it will be good for us. We can digest cardboard. That does not mean we should.
– There are religious reasons too – but that is not my argument to be a vegetarian. Various religions, including Christianity propagates Vegetarianism.
– According to the Bible, in the beginning, humans and animals were vegetarian (Genesis 1:29-30, “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, … and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat, and to every beast of the earth, … I have given every green herb for meat.” Some Christian leaders, such as the Reverend Andrew Linzey, have supported the view that Jesus was a vegetarian. In fact, the Bible compares the killing of cows to murdering a man: “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” (Isaiah 66.3)
– Prophet Mohammed “Where there is an abundance of vegetables, a host of angels will descend on that place.” Although he didnt publicly proclaim as being vegetarian, he practised vegetarianism and was against killing of animals for food.He preferred strict vegetarian diet, like dates, nuts, milk, cucumber etc…He didnt insist on vegetarianism – a reason could be in those days it was hard to get such food in the desert….The Holy Quran emphasizes that animals and humans have equal shares of Earth’s resources, also saying that in God’s eyes they are equal to humans, and Hes communicates with them exactly as Hes does with humans:
– There are several Sanskrit Sutras where Buddha instructs his followers to avoid meat. Mahayana Buddhism generally advises monks to be strictly vegetarian. Buddhist scripture, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.” One of the story says that Buddha died after taking sukara-maddava, which is translated by some as pork, while as mushroom by others. Ashoka Stumbhas (pillers) are all over India. He had also created metallic pillars consisting of iron alloys. Which have still not rusted even after 2000 years. “One animal is not to be fed to another,” says some Stumbhas.
– Most major paths of Hinduism hold vegetarianism as an ideal. Classical India was vegetarian, as was Japan up until a generation or two ago. “The purchaser of flesh performs violence by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does violence by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it all these are to be considered meat-eaters.” (Mahabharat, Anu.115.40) All of these people will also incur the same karmic reactions for their participation in killing, distributing or eating the flesh of animals.
The Gita also clarifies exactly what should be offered: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Bhagavad-gita. 9.26).
The staple of Egyptian workers building the Pyramids was boiled onions. Pythagoras was a vegetarian, although he had a weird distaste for beans. Even the Roman army marched on its vegetarian stomach. It is clear that 90% of humanity have subsisted on a 90% vegetarian diet. Modern carnivorous men and women are the exception not the rule.
The metaphor by Douglas Dunn is that if one gives a young child an apple and a live chicken, the child would instinctively play with the chicken and eat the apple, whereas if a cat were presented with the same choices, its natural impulse would be the opposite. In a similar assertion, Scott Adams once wrote humorously: “I point out that a live cow makes a lion salivate, whereas a human just wants to say “moo” and see if the cow responds”.
Meat production and processing requires more energy, more water and more land as compared to plant food production. It also releases carbon dioxide, methane (green house gases) into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming. Going vegetarian would reduce your carbon footprint on earth!
George Bernard Shaw had once remarked, on being asked as to why He was a vegetarian, that he didn’t want to make his stomach a graveyard of dead animals.
The friend asked me: “Now-a-days majority of Brahmins eat non-vegetarian food, what is your opinion?”
“As I said, understanding vegetarianism is different from just being vegetarian – Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian. Similarly, understanding Brahminism is different from born to a Brahmin. One becomes Brahmin not by birth, but by Karma…But taking birth in a Brahmin family has some advantages as you get exposure to vegetarianism…”
“Those who proudly claim to be Brahmins by birth, and then eat non-vegetarian food, are doing worst paapa (sin) on the earth. When a butcher kills an animal, he does his duty or karma. But a Brahmin (who is supposed to profess and follow non-violence ) eats a dead body, he not only goes against his karma and the genetical code but stoops lower than an animal that eats the decayed dead-bodies. This is my opinion. If a Brahmin can’t feel the pain of any living creature when hurt, bleed when cut and love their kids like we love, I feel pity for him. But I am sure every Brahmin, at a later age will understand if he has an open mind to learn”
With more and more Mc Donald’s and KFC’s opening up the store, our country is slowly turning into a land of slaughter house.
‘”You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever.” (Yajur Veda 12.32.90)
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