Are there any logical reasons to choose vegetarianism?
Answer: Yes; there are many. Let’s discuss five logical reasons here. Firstly, non-vegetarian food generally costs much more money – and secondly, it costs much more than money. These hidden costs comprise the next four reasons and can be represented by the acronym HELL (Health, Environment, Life – Subhuman, Life – Human). Let’s first look at these hidden costs and then see how we can practically adopt vegetarianism. 1. Health: Grain-fed animals contribute to severe health problems to humans like heart disease, several types of cancer, diabetes, etc. How? Cattle have stomachs meant to digest grass, not grains. But grains, unlike grass, can be grown elsewhere, transported to the slaughterhouses and fed to the animals there. The unnatural change of diet for cattle from grass to grains causes many diseases in them. So they are routinely administered antibiotics, which lead to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being formed in their bodies. When the meat of such animals is eaten by humans, the resistant bacteria threaten the effectiveness of the medicines that treat the meat-eaters. No wonder 90-97% heart diseases can be stopped by switching to a vegetarian diet. Anatomy:
Let us compare some of the physiological features of flesh eaters, plant eaters & human beings: Sr. No.| Features of flesh eaters| Features of Plant eaters| Features of human beings| 1| Intestinal tract only 3 times body length, so rapidly decaying meat can pass out of body quickly| Intestinal tract 10-12 times body length, fruits do not decay as rapidly, so can pass more slowly through body| Intestinal tract 12 times body length| 2| Small salivary glands in the mouth ( not needed to predigest grains and fruits )| Well developed salivary glands, needed to predigest grains & fruits| Well developed salivary glands needed to predigest grains & fruits| 3| Acid saliva; no enzyme ptyalin to predigest grains| Alkaline saliva; much ptyalin to predigest grains| Alkaline saliva;Much ptyalin to predigest grains.| 4| No flat back molar teeth to grind good| Flat back molar teeth to grind food| Flat back molar teeth to grind food|
5| Sharp and pointed incisor teeth| Broad, flattened and spade shaped incisor teeth| Broad, flattened and spade shaped incisor teeth| 6| Canine teeth are long, sharp and curved to tear flesh.| Canine teeth are dull and short (sometimes long for defense), or none.| Canine teeth are short and blunted. | 7| Facial Muscles are Reduced to allow wide mouth gap| Facial Muscles are well-developed | Facial Muscles are well-developed | 8| Jaw Motion has minimal side-to-side motion| Jaw Motion has good side-to-side motion | Jaw Motion has good side-to-side motion| 9| Swallows food whole| Extensive chewing| Extensive chewing| 10| Simple, short and smooth colon| Long and complex colon| Long and complex colon| 11| Perspires through tongue to cool body| Perspires through millions of skin pores | Perspires through millions of skin pores | 12| Sharp claws | Flattened nails or blunt hooves| Flattened nails| Clearly the human body is not made for a non-vegetarian diet. Nutrition
Let’s now consider the common notion, “If I don’t eat meat, I will suffer from lack of protein!” Researchers at the Max Planck Institute, Germany, have shown: “Most vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and grains are excellent sources of complete proteins.” To substantiate this further, let’s compare the nutrition values of some common vegetarian foods and some common flesh foods: Vegetarian foods (100 gm)
Sr. No.| Name of food stuff| Medical calories|
1| Cashewnut| 596|
2| Coconut| 444|
3| Groundnut| 549|
4| Cheese| 348|
5| Ghee| 900|
Flesh foods (100 gm)
Sr. No.| Name of food stuff| Medical calories|
1| Egg| 173|
2| Fish| 91|
3| Mutton| 194|
4| Pork| 114|
5| Beef| 114|
Thus, vegetarian food can give us abundant nutrition inclusive of protein. Non-vegetarian food, on the other hand, contains more protein than can be
stored in the body. This excess protein has to be excreted through the kidneys, which is a very taxing process. Will we not lack sufficient strength if we eat only vegetarian food? The elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus are extremely powerful animals and none of them need meat for their power. Similarly, nor do we. Disease
Meat contains 14 times more chemicals & pesticides than plant foods. Consequently, far from being necessary for health, meat necessarily makes health go far away. 1. Heart disease, one of the leading killers in the world, has been found to have, as one of its major causes, a meat-centered diet. That’s why as early as 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association declared, “90% – 97% of heart disease can be prevented by a vegetarian diet.” 2. Cancer: Cooked meat and fish contains carcinogens, which sometimes attack the cell’s genetic material (DNA), alter it and develop cancer. Indeed, annual health-care costs directly resulting from the US meat-centered diet were estimated to be between $23.6 billion and $61.4 billion, as stated in 1995 by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a group of 4,500 medical doctors.
2. Environment: Assembly-line meat factories (read ‘hi-tech slaughterhouses’) cause enormous pollution of water bodies. InIowa, USA alone, hog farms and hog factories produce more than 50 million tons of excrement. Moreover these factories also generate significant greenhouse gases. A Japanese study estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef emits as much carbon dioxide as is emitted by the average European car every 155 miles. Overall, assembly-line meat factories:
– consume enormous amounts of energy,
– pollute water supplies,
– generate significant greenhouse gases and
– require ever-increasing amounts of grains, thus destroying forests. 3. Life – Subhuman: We humans “process” (grow and kill) around 60 billion animals every year, or 10 animals per person per year. With the average human life span of 75 years, one human life causes death to 10 x 75 = 750 animals! More specifically, the average American consumes in a 72-year lifetime approximately 11 cattle, 3 lambs and sheep, 23 hogs, 45 turkeys, 1,100 chickens and 862 pounds of fish! Not only does our meat diet cause death to millions of animals, but it causes torturous death to them, as is evident from just two sample statistics given below. Hens: Hens are so tightly packed in the battery cages that they cannot move an inch during their encagement. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends giving each hen four inches of ‘feeder space’. In this little space the birds cannot stretch their wings or legs, and cannot fulfill normal behavioral patterns. Constantly rubbing against the wire cages, they suffer from severe feather loss, and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions. Hens are forced to lay up to 200-220 eggs every year, leading to weakened bones, feather loss etc.
Male chicks: Male chicks of egg laying breeds are of no economic value. They may be thrown in trashcans where they are suffocated or crushed under the weight of others. Another common method used to dispose of unwanted male chicks is grinding them up alive. Male chicks are either packed in garbage plastic bags to suffocate to death or thrown away in trash cans. The recent trend is to grind the male chicks alive and use it as high fertility manure for the farms. In theU.S. alone, 6,60,000 animals are killed for meat every hour. Manure fumes and rotting carcasses will force workers to wear gas masks. A newborn calf is likely to be taken to a veal factory. There, he will be locked up in a stall and chained by his neck to prevent him from turning around for his entire life. He will be injected with antibiotics and hormones to make him grow. 4. Life – Human: Though some 800 million people on the planet suffer from hunger or malnutrition, majority of corn and soya grown in the world, which could be used to feed these starving humans, feeds cattle, pigs and chickens instead.
When animals eat grains and then humans eat their flesh, the calories humans get is around one-fifth of what humans would get if they ate the grains directly. No wonder Mark W Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute calls for “a stronger public relations campaign in the reduction of meat consumption — one like that around cigarettes — emphasizing personal health, compassion for animals, and doing good for the poor and the planet.” The fear and anger in the animals while being slaughtered enters into our consciousness subtly through their flesh and impels us to act fearfully and angrily. Even if we imagine that we can eat meat and still think positively, the negative karmic consequences of our actions will soon catch up with us. Thus our non-vegetarian diet will hurt not only other human beings, but also us too. In our present times, we have scores of statistics like the ones quoted above to make the logic of vegetarianism compellingly clear. But even without these statistics, the resonance of vegetarianism with our essential human conscience and sensitivity is so intuitively strong that eminent thinkers throughout history have not only chosen but also championed vegetarianism. To illustrate, here are the quotes of just a few reputed vegetarians:
“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat.” Leonardo Da Vinci
“When a man wants to murder a tiger, he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him, he calls him ferocity.” “While our bodies are the living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal conditions on earth?” George Bernard Shaw
“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. Albert Einstein
“I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants. ” M. K. Gandhi
“The flesh eating is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to moral feeling- killing. By killing man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity- that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself and by violating this his own feelings become cruel.” Leo Tolstoy
“Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”
“As long as man massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” “Those that kill animals to eat their flesh tend to massacre their own.” Pythagoras
“A dead cow or sheep lying in a pasture is recognized as carrion. The same sort of a carcass dressed and hung up in a butcher’s stall passes as food.” J. H. Kellogg.
“We have enslaved the rest of animal creation and have treated so badly that, if they were to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.” William Ralph
Pythagoras noted this over two millennia ago, “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” And Albert Einstein reiterated it, “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”
Two-point formula for giving up meat-eating
1. Higher taste: We can experience spiritual fulfillment through prayer, meditation – and especially through chanting the holy names of God. As soon as dawn arrives, we extinguish the candle that was earlier indispensable. Similarly, once spiritual enlightenment dawns in our heart, we will eschew harmful sensual indulgences, that were earlier irresistible – not reluctantly, but joyfully. When we experience God’s infinite protection and love streaming into our hearts and lives, both the main causes of overeating – the innate craving for pleasure and the desperate search for relief from distress – will be tackled at the root. We will discover an inner treasure of devotion, which offers simultaneously the highest pleasure and the safest relief. Then self-restraint will cease to be an exercise in self-denial; it will become a welcome catapult for our further spiritual enrichment. The easiest way to experience this inner enrichment is by chanting the names of God like the Hare Krishna maha-mantra regularly as a sadhana and especially when we are tempted.
2. Spiritual diet: When we become spiritually awakened, we will naturally eschew all harmful foods – not just the foods that increase the fat in our bodies, but also the foods that cause our innocent, helpless brothers – the animals – to lose their bodies to fatten ours. That is, we will naturally choose vegetarianism to protect our own health and the animals’ lives. But the Bhagavad-gita (3.17) urges us to go beyond vegetarianism to Krishna-tarianism, to offer our vegetarian food with love to God,Krishna. The food thus sanctified becomes prasad or mercy. Prasad not only nourishes us physically, but also awakens us spiritually to our natural joyfulness. Therefore, irrespective of whether presently we are non-vegetarians or not, let’s direct our quest for happiness inwards and thus stimulate our spiritual fulfillment – and also facilitate our own physical health and that of our starving fellow humans. Lest we shy away from a spiritual solution and seek a material palliative instead, Albert Einstein’s verdict on problem-solving can prod us on, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.”