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Challenges Against Vegetarianism — Refuted


Vegetarianism and Biology

1. Human bodies are biologically mandated by nature to eat meat. In other words, we were born to eat meat.

Actually, human bodies are far closer to vegetarian animals than carnivores. For example, because meat putrifies quickly, the intestines of carnivores are far shorter (3 times their body length) than those of vegetarian animals (six times their body length) so that the meat gets digested and expelled quickly. Humans, like other vegetarian animals, have intestines six times the body length.

Furthermore, the fact that vegetarians have lived healthy lives for decades clearly shows that meat-eating is not at all "mandated by nature". In fact, meat-eating has been shown be be detrimental to human health. No health advisories have ever recommended that people need to eat more meat. On the contrary, health and medical advisories have always, without exception, strongly recommended that people need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and limit meat consumption.

2. Humans have four canine teeth, the purpose of which is to tear meat.

The apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, and so on) also possess canine teeth. They are all vegetarians. Some chimps have been observed eating insects, but they do not need canine teeth to tear apart insects. Panda bears have more canine teeth than humans, yet are exclusively vegetarian, eating bamboo.

However, even surrendering to the argument that "humans are, by nature omnivorous", the point still remains that we humans do not need to eat meat. Unlike animals, we can rise above our animal natures; after all, society depends on the fact that we must transcend our lower natures! Just read William Golding's The Lord of the Flies to learn how the thin veneer of civilization collapses when we fail to do so.

3. Only meat contains complete protein.

This is an urban myth. Proteins are long chains of amino acids, strung together like pearls on a thread. Your body needs a complete set of the acids in order to build body tissues. Meats contain them all, but so do most plants. Even if you never touched meat, you would get all the amino acids you need from beans, vegetables, grains, and fruits.

4. You need iron, and you can only get iron from eating meat.

This is another urban myth. It's true that some people, such as menstruating women, don't get enough iron. But many Americans get too much. And that can trigger the production of free radicals — rogue chemicals that can contribute to cancer and speed the aging process. To much iron can also cause kidney damage. In addition, iron overload can increase the risk for heart disease. Green vegetables and beans provide nonheme iron, a form that is more absorbable when your body is low in iron and less absorbable when you already have enough. Iron in meat is heme iron, which barges into your body whether you need it or not.

5. Soy products cause cancer.

Though the connection between soy and breast cancer remains controversial, recent evidence suggests that soy products reduce the risk of breast cancer, provided they are consumed early in life. Studies show that women who consumed tofu, soymilk, or other soy products in their diets during adolescence have about 30 percent less risk of cancer than other women. Among women who have been treated for breast cancer, soy products reduce the risk of recurrence. There is also some evidence to suggest that soy products can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

6. You need to eat meat to make muscle!

Tell that to Mr. Universe, 1971, Bill Pearl. Or the 1975 Mr. Olympia winner, Franco Columbu. And many, many others: just Google it.

This reminds me of a passage from Thoreau's Walden: "One farmer says to me, 'You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;' and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle."


Vegetarianism and Buddhism

Source: Buddhist Vegetarianism, from Buddhism Today

All beings —human or beast— Love life and hate to die.
They fear most the butcher's knife
Which slices and chops them piece-by-piece.
Instead of being cruel and mean,
Why not stop killing and cherish life?
(Cherishing Life, I 83)

In Buddhism adhering to a completely vegetarian diet is a natural and logical ramification of the moral precept against the taking of life (see Five Moral Precepts). The Bodhisattva Precepts (see Brahma Net Sutra) also explicitly forbid the eating of non-vegetarian food and also the eating of garlic, onions, and other related plants.

In the Shurangama Sutra, the Buddha states:

After my extinction, in the Dharma-Ending Age, these hordes of ghosts and spirits will abound, spreading like wildfire as they argue that eating meat will bring one to the Bodhi Way. . . . You should know that these people who eat meat may gain some awareness and may seem to be in samadhi, but they are all great rakshasas. When their retribution ends, they are bound to sink into the bitter sea of birth and death. They are not disciples of the Buddha. Such people as these kill and eat one another in a never-ending cycle. How can such people transcend the triple realm?
(SS VI 20-22)

The Venerable Master Hsuan-Hua comments:
Question: "When you eat one bowl of rice, you take the life of all the grains of rice, whereas eating meat you take only one animal's life.

The Master: On the body of one single animal are a hundred thousand, in fact, sever million little organisms. These organisms are fragments of what was once an animal. The soul of a human being at death may split up to become many animals. One person can become about ten animals. That's why animals are so stupid. The soul of an animal can split up and become, in its smallest division, an organism or plant. The feelings which plants have, then, are what separated from the animals's soul when it split up at death. Although the life force of a large number of plants may appear sizeable, it is not as great as that of a single animal or a single mouthful of meat. Take, for example, rice: tens of billions of grains of rice do not contain as much life force as a single piece of meat. If you open your Five Eyes you can know this at a glance. If you haven't opened your eyes, no matter how one tries to explain it to you, you won't understand. No matter how it's explained, you won't believe it, because you haven't been a plant!

"Another example is the mosquitoes. The millions of mosquitoes on this mountain may be simply the soul of one person who has been transformed into all those bugs. It is not the case that a single human soul turns into a single mosquito. One person can turn into countless numbers of mosquitos.

"At death the nature changes, the soul scatters, and its smallest fragments become plants. Thus, there is a difference between eating plants and eating animals. What is more, plants have very short lifespans. The grass, for example, is born in the spring and dies within months. Animals live a long time. If you don't kill them, they will live for many years. Rice, regardless of conditions, will only live a short time. And so, if you really look into it, there are many factors to consider, and even science hasn't got it all straight."
(Buddha Root Farm, 64)

Mahakashyapa asked the Buddha, "Why is it that the Thus Come One does not allow eating meat?' The Buddha replied, "It is because meat-eating cuts off the seeds of great compassion." (Cherishing Life, II 5)


Vegetarianism and Christianity

Source: Frequently Asked Questions 06-99, from JesusVeg.com

1. Paul's letters to Timothy (first letter, chapter 4) and to the Romans (chapter 14) say that all food is good to eat. He also calls abstinence from meat a false teaching. How do you reconcile vegetarianism with these teachings?

Since Paul's letters to justify eating meat betrays a misunderstanding of what Paul was saying. Paul's commentary on eating meat serves a specific historical purpose, just like his teachings on marriage and slavery. Viewed in context, Paul's writings support vegetarianism.

Recall that Paul's writings have been used over the years to justify all manner of evils, from slavery to spousal and child abuse to the Western expansion and slaughter of Native Americans. We must be careful not to misuse Paul's writings to justify the gross abuse of animals inherent in raising and slaughtering them for food.

Some vegetarian Biblical scholars simply note that the author of First Timothy says that "all food is lawful." Animals are not food, they note, but living creatures of God in their own right. The food given to humanity by God is the food of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:29) and the food of heaven, where "no one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as water fills the sea, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord" (Isaiah 11). There will be no slaughterhouses in heaven.

It is crucial to recall that in all of his letters, Paul is writing to specific communities at a specific period in history, as is clear from his writings with regard to slavery and a woman's place in the congregation, which make sense in historical context, but have been misused for many years. Much in the scriptures attempts to address specific issues facing the early Church and must be understood within that framework. The letters to Timothy, written not by Paul but by one of his disciples 60 to 150 years after Paul's martyrdom, are good examples.

Vegetarianism was a hot topic in the early Church, as it has been ever since, with many Christians abstaining from meat for fear of eating meat offered to idols. Others abstained in order to affirm a God of compassion, the God of Genesis 1 and the prophetic vision of Isaiah 11, as addressed in our question on eschatology. Still others abstained because they believed material creation to be evil. It is only the vegetarianism of self-denial, abstinence from meat based on a belief in bodily impurity, which Paul disdains as heresy, as in First Timothy.

Any introduction to First Timothy, or even the brief notes in a study Bible, explain that among many early Christians were some who "despised everything concerning the body," and out of this they opposed marriage, drinking wine, and eating meat. They also instituted practices such as self-flagellation and nonstop fasting of one sort or another. It is this "ascetical vegetarianism" which is being condemned by the author of First Timothy. Vegetarianism for others was an affirmation, rather than a rejection, of God's creation, and would thus be acceptable. As Dr. Richard Alan Young explains in Is God a Vegetarian, "The author [of First Timothy] condemns only those who turn vegetarianism into an absolute law because they believe that the physical creation is evil… Within the Pauline tradition, it would have been perfectly acceptable to abstain for the right reasons" (p. 117).

Bible Scholar John Davidson concurs. Commenting on the use of First Timothy as a blanket rejection of vegetarianism in The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of His Original Teachings, he states that "The justification for eating meat… is a parody of logic and compassion. One could apply the same reasoning to anything in the world that one desired—that God had created it so it must be all right to eat it, indulge in it, possess it, and so on. This comment is also quite the reverse of Paul's attitude in which he recommends vegetarianism if eating meat seems to upset someone" (p. 941).

Apparently, Paul both adopted and advocated a vegetarian diet, as shown in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 8) and his letter to the Romans (chapter 14). Commenting on First Corinthians, chapter 8, Vaclavik explains that "Paul is here clearly stating that, if his habit of eating meat causes dissent among the Christian fellowship… he will cease eating meat from that day forward" (p. 309).

Some suggest that Paul was a vegetarian for the "wrong" reasons. However, as Davidson explains, "Paul was expecting the imminent end of the world" (p. 941). Thus, Paul's writings and practice focus on inclusivity and immediate salvation. Paul accommodates slave owners (e.g., I Corinthians 7:20-24, Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, I Timothy 6:1-2, Titus 2:9-10, Philemon 1) and meat-eaters, despite the direct contradiction of meat-eating and slavery with Jesus' counsel that human beings should be compassionate and merciful.

Young concludes, "From God's approval of creation (Genesis 1:31) to God's redemption of all creation (Romans 8:19-21), we learn that the created world is good and is to be valued for its own sake. Just as the early Church denounced those who devalued creation, the church today should denounce animal abuse wherever it is found, for it too debases God's good creation. Ironic as it may seem, the devaluing of animals by the Gnostics lead to a very strict form of vegetarianism, whereas the devaluing of animals today leads to an unrestrained eating of meat" (p. 119).

In summary, a vegetarian diet is in much better keeping with the life-affirming spirit of Paul's teachings than with one that supports the violence and disrespect for God's creatures inherent in a meat-inclusive diet.


Vegetarianism and Ethics

1. Why are you worrying about animals? There is plenty of human misery. Fix human misery first, then worry about the animals.

A good part of human misery (poverity and its concomitant disease, pollution, even wars) is directly the result of the wastefulness of a meat-centered diet. It is somewhat ironic that a person who is truly and sincerely concerned only with humans should be concerned about animals! But it is true.

Besides, it is not like you need to consume extra resources, time or spend extra money to become a vegetarian. It takes no time to practice vegetarianism. And a vegetarian spends less money than a meat-eater.

2. You can't stop killing animals. Just walking down a sidewalk or driving your kills innumerable insects. So why bother?

Yes, you can't stop killing. But you can try to mimimize it (by becoming a vegetarian). To do otherwise is, at best, laziness, or, at worst, negligence.

3. You're not mimimizing killing by being a vegetarian! You are just transferring the killing to plants. In fact, you are maximizing killing: instead of killing one cow (by being a meat-eater), you are killing thousands of plants (by being a vegetarian)!

It takes 17 pounds of grains to produce a single pound of meat. Eating meat not only kills the animal itself, but the terrific number of plants used to feed and fatten the animal. Again, it is somewhat ironic that a person who sincerely wants to minimize killing plants should be a vegetarian! But it is true.


Vegetarianism and Hinduism

Source: Why Hindus Don't Eat Meat

Posted by Dr. Jai Maharaj

Vegetarianism is the key to good health and happiness. The Hindu view is multi-dimensional, including the ecological, medical and spiritual, as is evident in the following excerpts from Hinduism Today:

Besides being an expression of compassion for animals, vegetarianism is followed for ecological and health rationales.

Reasons

In the past fifty years, millions of meat-eaters — Hindus and non-Hindus — have made the personal decision to stop eating the flesh of other creatures. There are five major motivations for such a decision:

1. The Dharmic Law Reason

ahimsa, the law of noninjury, is the Hindu's first duty in fulfilling religious obligations to God and God's creation as defined by Vedic scripture.

2. The Karmic Consequences Reason

All of our actions, including our choice of food, have Karmic consequences. By involving oneself in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death, even indirectly by eating other creatures, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused.

3. The Spiritual Reason

Food is the source of the body's chemistry, and what we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns. If one wants to live in higher consciousness, in peace and happiness and love for all creatures, then he cannot eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. By ingesting the grosser chemistries of animal foods, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, anxiety, suspicion and a terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the the flesh of the butchered creatures. For these reasons, vegetarians live in higher consciousness and meat-eaters abide in lower consciousness.

4. The Health Reason

Medical studies prove that a vegetarian diet is easier to digest, provides a wider ranger of nutrients and imposes fewer burdens and impurities on the body. Vegetarians are less susceptible to all the major diseases that afflict contemporary humanity, and thus live longer, healthier, more productive lives. They have fewer physical complaints, less frequent visits to the doctor, fewer dental problems and smaller medical bills. Their immune system is stronger, their bodies are purer, more refined and skin more beautiful.

5. The Ecological Reason

Planet Earth is suffering. In large measure, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rainforests to create pasture lands for live stock, loss of topsoils and the consequent increase of water impurities and air pollution have all been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet. No decision that we can make as individuals or as a race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology as the decision not to eat meat.

History

The book Food for the Spirit, Vegetarianism and the World Religions, observes, "Despite popular knowledge of meat-eating's adverse effects, the nonvegetarian diet became increasingly widespread among the Hindus after the two major invasions by foreign powers, first the Muslims and later the British. With them came the desire to be 'civilized,' to eat as did the Saheeb. Those actually trained in Vedic knowledge, however, never adopted a meat-oriented diet, and the pious Hindu still observes vegetarian principles as a matter of religious duty. "That vegetarianism has always been widespread in India is clear from the earliest Vedic texts. This was observed by the ancient traveler Megasthenes and also by Fa-Hsien, a Chinese Buddhist monk who, in the fifth century, traveled to India in order to obtain authentic copies of the scriptures. "These scriptures unambiguously support the meatless way of life. In the Mahabharat, for instance, the great warrior Bheeshm explains to Yuddhishtira, eldest of the Paandav princes, that the meat of animals is like the flesh of one's own son. Similarly, the Manusmriti declares that one should 'refrain from eating all kinds of meat,' for such eating involves killing and and leads to Karmic bondage (Bandh) [5.49]. Elsewhere in the Vedic literature, the last of the great Vedic kings, Maharaja Parikshit, is quoted as saying that 'only the animal-killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth [Srimad Bhagvatam 10.1.4].'"

Scripture

He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth. Mahabharata 115.47

Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength and memory should abstain fromacts of injury. Mahabharata 18.115.8

The very name of cow is Aghnya ["not to be killed"], indicating that they should never be slaughtered. Who, then could slay them? Surely, one who kills a cow or abull commits a heinous crime. Mahabharata Shantiparv 262.47

The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa 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 of these are to be considered meat-eaters. Mahabharata Anu 115.40

He who sees that the Lord of all is ever the same in all that is — immortal in the field of mortality — he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path. Bhagavad Gita 13.27-28

ahimsa is the highest Dharm. ahimsa is the best Tapas. ahimsa is the greatest gift. ahimsa is the highest self-control. ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. ahimsa is the highest power. ahimsa is the highest friend. ahimsa is the highest truth. ahimsa is the highest teaching. Mahabharata 18.116.37-41

What is the good way? It is the path that reflects on how it may avoid killing any creature. Tirukural 324

All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat. Tirukural 260

What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin. Tirukural 312, 321

Goodness is never one with the minds of these two: one who wields a weapon and one who feasts on a creature's flesh. Tirukural 253


Vegetarianism and Islam

Source: Who says Muslims can't be vegetarian?

The option to be vegetarian has always existed in Islam, whether or not it was actualized at any time or place. The great Sufi Rbiah al-Adawyah of Basrah was an early Muslim vegetarian; so were the famous poet Ab al-Al al-Maarr and the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II. In recent times, the renowned Sufi shaykh Bawa Muhaiyaddeen was a notable vegetarian Muslim. Nowadays there are more and more Muslims in different countries choosing to be vegetarian, although they have mostly kept quiet about it.

Sometimes we get negative, hostile, indignant, or incredulous reactions from other Muslims who have never considered the possibility. One common line of attack goes, "You can't make harm what Allah has made halal! That is a sin!" Excuse me, but who ever said anything about making anything harm? Why even bring that issue into it? Why do they have to think of everything in life in terms of force and compulsion and forbidding? In Islamic law there are more categories than just obligatory and harm. There are various shadings of desirable and undesirable, and in the middle there is the neutral (al-mubh). The choice of what halal food to eat is a neutral one-it doesn't have any direct bearing on what is forbidden or obligatory. I'm not making meat "harm." I just don't wish for any, thank you.

Some Muslims will tell you that in Islamic law you are not allowed to refuse to eat meat. This is mere opinion unsupported by any evidence from the sources of the Sharah. Suppose they establish the "Islamic State," then how will they enforce this ruling? Hold me down, force my mouth open, and shove kebabs down my throat? Come on, I don't think so. Others try to persuade you by saying that the Prophet, peace be upon him, ate meat, so you should too. Well, let's look closer at that argument. We all know that we should try to emulate the Prophet's sunnah. And what is more important in the Sunnah: to observe specific details of the Prophet's personal taste which others may or may not share? Or to abide by the great universal principles of behavior and character that he exemplified? The Prophet recognized that each person is a unique autonomous individual with his or her own personality. When giving advice to individual Companions, he would specifically tailor the advice according to that person's own characteristics. He did not enforce any overbearing uniformity on the people. Especially when it came to eating, he recognized that different people have different tastes. And for that matter, not even the Prophet and his Companions ate meat all the time; it was only once in a while that they did, not every day. Some Muslims seem to be under the impression that eating meat is the sixth pillar of Islam or something, but clearly there is no reason for thinking so.

The one overall guideline on food that the Prophet gave was: Eat of what is halal and what is agreeable to you. That says it all. Within the wide range of halal food, each individual can choose to eat whatever suits him or her.

If people want to follow the Prophet's sunnah of eating, consider this: The Prophet ate what he liked and he left aside what he didn't like. That's all we vegetarians are doing! Furthermore, he never coerced anyone else into eating what they didn't like. How about imitating this sunnah?

There was a Bedouin tribe whose custom it was to eat lizards, and the Prophet never forbade them from doing so. But he himself would never eat a lizard. This shows that just because something is "halal," that doesn't require you to eat it if you don't want to. The bottom line is: no one has the authority to dictate to you what halal food you can choose to put into your body. Islamic law is completely neutral on this issue; it is only a private matter for each individual to decide for his or her self.

Moreover, note that the Quran does not simply say to eat halal meat: it says to eat what is good and wholesome (tayyib), and what is halal. Therefore, if any food is not tayyib, the Qurn does not encourage us to eat it. Most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their way into our food get killed off by the acids in our stomachs, since they originally adapted to live in a neutral-pH environment. But the digestive tract of the modern feedlot cow is closer in acidity to our own, and in this new, manmade environment acid-resistant strains of E. coli have developed that can survive our stomach acids and go on to kill us. By acidifying a cow's gut with corn, we have broken down one of our food chain's barriers to infection.Considering the diseases linked with meat eating (hardening of the arteries, which causes circulatory failure and stroke, in addition to other ills; gout; E. coli infection; and Mad Cow Disease), the hormones artificially put into animals, the filthy conditions of feedlots and slaughterhouses, and the danger of meat going bad, I can only conclude that meat does not pass the test of being tayyib, so Muslims are better off without it.

Ever since I became vegetarian, I feel lighter, fresher, happier, healthier. I can think better. Now, who will argue with that? :-)


Vegetarianism and Judaism

Source: Should Jews Be Vegetarians, from JewishVeg.com

1. Inconsistent with Judaism, vegetarianism elevates animals to a level equal to or greater to that of people.

Response: Concern for animals and a refusal to treat them brutally and slaughter them for food that is not necessary for proper nutrition and, indeed, is harmful to human health, does not mean that vegetarians regard animals as being equal to people. Also, as previously indicated, there are many reasons for being vegetarian other than animal rights, including concern for human health, ecological threats, the need to conserve resources, and the plight of hungry people.

Because humans are capable of imagination, rationality, empathy compassion, and moral choice, we should strive to end the unbelievably cruel conditions under which farm animals are currently raised.

2. Vegetarianism places greater priority on animal rights than on the many problems related to human welfare.

Response: Vegetarian diets are not beneficial only to animals. They also improve human health, help hungry people through better sharing of food and other resources, put less stress on endangered ecosystems, conserve valuable resources, and reduce the potential for war and violence. In view of the many global threats related to today's livestock agriculture, working to promote vegetarianism may be the most important action that one can take for global survival.

3. By putting vegetarian values ahead of Jewish teachings, vegetarians are, in effect, creating a new religion, with values contrary to Jewish teachings.

Response: Jewish vegetarians are not placing so-called vegetarian values above Torah principles. They are saying that basic Jewish teachings that mandate that we treat animals with compassion, guard our health, share with hungry people, protect the environment, conserve resources, and seek peace, point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet for Jews today, especially in view of the many problems related to modern methods of raising animals on factory farms. Rather than rejecting Torah values, Jewish vegetarians are challenging the Jewish community to apply Judaism"s glorious teachings.

4. Jews must eat meat on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Response: According to the the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), after the destruction of the Temple, Jews are not required to eat meat in order to rejoice on sacred occasions. Recent scholarly articles by Rabbi Alfred Cohen (The Journal of Halachah and Contemporary Society, Fall 1981) and Rabbi J. David Bleich (Tradition, Summer 1987) conclude that Jews do not have to eat meat in order to celebrate Shabbos and Yom Tov.

5. The Torah mandates that we eat korban Pesqach and other korbanos.

Response: Without the Temple, these requirements are not applicable today. And, as indicated, Rav Kook felt, based on the prophecy of Isaiah, that there will be sacrifices involving vegetarian foods only during the Messianic Period.

6. Jews have historically had many problems with some animal rights groups which have often opposed kosher shechita and advocated its abolishment.

Response: Jews should consider switching to vegetarianism not because of the views of animal rights groups, whether they are hostile to Judaism or not, but because it is the diet most consistent with Jewish values. It is the Torah, not animal rights groups, that indicate how far the treatment of animals is from fundamental Jewish teachings.

In conclusion, in view of the strong Jewish mandates to be compassionate to animals, preserve health, help feed the hungry, protect the environment, and seek and pursue peace, and the very negative effects flesh-centered diets have in each of these areas, I respectfully urge committed Jews to seriously consider switching to vegetarian diets. Hopefully, the Jewish community will start to address the many moral issues related to our diets. The future of Judaism and of our endangered planet are at stake.

Vegetarianism and Sikhism

Source: Vegetarianism, from SikhiWiki

Question: Master ji, we all know that it's very crucial to abstain from the eating of meat because this increases our karmas, but can you explain in more detail the reasons for becoming vegetarian?

Thakar Singh: We should not increase our burden of karmas as you have already said. There is karmic value in every kind of thing we use in this world. The air we consume, we have to pay for. The water we use, we have to pay for. The light of the sun or moon is also not free for us, and this green grass is also to be paid for - nothing is free. Depending on the "Jun" (life-form), there is a price to be paid. Lower life forms have a lower price to pay. Plants have a lower spiritual price than animal life forms. So why take the higher burden?

If you are to construct a house, you don't make it with gold or silver or jewels. If you can, you make the house with stone - Stone is very strong and cheap -- So, why don't you make your house with stone and bricks instead of gold? This body is like a house. Build it with material that is spiritually cheap and strong. Fruits and vegetables are spiritually cheap and they can make you spiritually and physically strong. Higher life-forms are expensive - and you will have to pay a higher price!

In the same way, if we can maintain a simple life style, with a spiritually lower cost - with this greenery, fruits, etc - then why attract so much burden and payment of karma by consuming higher life-forms? God did not really say that it is "burden-less" or it is all free. He has never explained it like this, but He has allowed us to have these lower forms because with our meditations we can release ourselves very quickly and easily and therefore we will not "over-burden" ourselves for a long time.

This is also the case with people who eat animals. Their nervous systems have been seriously disturbed and shaken. Even if you look at an animal that has been killed you will be emotionally affected; your nervous system will be disturbed and you will lose so much peace; you will not feel good and your heart will be affected by it. Look at a dying fish. It is out of water and if you look at it, for one or two hours or even some days your heart will not feel good. You will think of the condition of that fish and it will feel horrible and your heart and mind will be in some kind of perturbed state.

For months even this state of mind will continue. Maybe after a long time you will forget this scene and its effect will be gone from your heart and then perhaps you cannot remember it - still it has its effect. If just looking at a dead fish causes this then what will be the case when we eat it and all these negative vibrations enter into our system. So many diseases will come up and our mental systems will be disturbed.

But when we eat some greenery or fruit everything is wonderful. The plant produces the fruit for consumption by an animal so that the seeds can be transported to new places. In fact by eating the fruit you are doing a favour to the plant! - the fruit is a bait for the animal to do a function that the plant desires - That is the function of a fruit. If you look at fruit that is ripe the colors tell you so wonderfully that it is ripe. A fragrance is also available and when you smell it you enjoy it and even when you remember the smell you feel good. Your heart is also enjoying and your mind and body are at peace.

Vegetarianism and Sufism

Source: International Vegetarian Union, from 15th World Vegetarian Congress, 1957

It looks quite unusual to find a person from the Arabian land to be a Vegetarian. It is with great surprise that people often Put the question to me, "Don't You take meat? Are you a Vegetarian?" Even in a country like India where a large number of people live On strictly vegetarian diet some are curious to know how I became a Vegetarian.

It was at the age of seventeen that I happened to read a book on mysticism. It left a deep impression upon my mind and I was attracted to Sufism and Mysticism. The book was a guide for me to develop the latent powers in me on the way to spiritual life. For a Sufi, Vegetarianism is a sine qua non. This was my first lesson in Vegetarianism and since then I have been both a Sufi and Vegetarian.

In 1923 I attended the International Psychical Research Conference in Paris by special invitation where I associated myself with many societies devoted to the development of spiritual life. I also attended similar meeting in Vienna, Berlin and Warsaw and I found that members of societies in these cities lived on vegetarian diet in order to develop the latent faculties in them.

Syria's famous Philosopher and Poet, Abu-l-Ala-Almaorri, who was a great Vegetarian of his time, infused the love of Vegetarianism and protection of animal life by his masterpieces and writings about the importance of Vegetarianism. In a couplet in Arabic he says: "People catch the flea and kill in; on the other hand they give alms to the poor. Better it is to free the flea (and not to kill it) than to give alms to the poor. Why so? because life is dear (precious) to them both and they are anxious to live longer."

I have found that Sufis during the period of their spiritual training not only do not take meat but also abstain from taking any kind of animal product. They do not cage the birds. Instances are not wanting wherein they have freed the caged birds after purchasing them. A genuine Sufi never harms a living being. Hence Sufis never hunt animals.

My experience of more than fifty years has led me to believe that vegetarian diet is easier to digest and keeps the physical mental and spiritual powers intact. Specially if a Vegetarian arranges his life after Nature's Rules by taking deep breaths in open air, enjoying fresh air 24 hours with balanced diet, his life will be certainly pleasant, his health sound, and he will reach the zenith of his age happy and successful.

A child eats what is given to him by his parents. He is not conscious of the kind of diet given to him. After some time he becomes habituated and it is difficult for him to up the habit easily. There are countries where vegetables, fruits, and cereals are not produced in sufficient quantities. The people there have no alternative but to eat meat. In cold countries people generally eat meat which is quite stimulating to them. But it does not affect their body and mind. In European countries like Britain, France and Germany, dieticians have proved that to maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health the vegetarian diet is the best and advise people in those countries to adopt it. That is why the Vegetarian Movement has been spreading rapidly in those countries.

But I must give a word of caution to the Vegetarian enthusiasts that a non-Vegetarian should take to Vegetarianism only in a rational way. The diet should be balanced and mixed. Non-Vegetarians should not be looked upon as sinners, as is generally the case with many Vegetarians. Our aim should be to convert them to our viewpoint only by bringing home to them the injurious effects of meat-eating on body, mind, and soul.


Inane Arguments

1. Your argument that raising animals for meat is a major waste of fresh water is stupid. Cows drink the water, then urinate the water onto the ground, where it goes back into the water supply.

The water wasted in raising animals for meat is not based on their drinking water. It is based on the irrigation used to raise crops that are, in turn, fed to the animals. The crops take in the water, then aspirate it as water vapor. Sure, the water vapor eventually condenses into clouds and eventually rains... thousands of miles away.

The mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean, because it is used up to irrigate crops. Not fruit and vegetable for human consumption, but fodder and grains for animals.

2. If we didn't eat the cows and pigs for food, they would overpopulate! We need to kill and eat them!

Farmers purposely breed these animals, often (in fact, practically always) using artificial insemination. They breed these animals in order to fulfill the market demands to ensure their profit. So your "argument" is nonsense.

3. Hitler was a vegetarian! [therefore, vegetarianism is evil].

This is a lapse in logic. It is as stupid as saying, "there are more churches in New York City than anywhere else; there is more crime in New York City than anywhere else. Therefore, churches cause crime."

This "argument" is completely irrelevant and asinine: Gandhi was a vegetarian, too; are you equating Gandhi with Hitler?

Stalin killed far more people than Hitler. Yet Stalin was a meat-eater. Are you going to condemn meat-eaters because one of their kind was a mass murderer? Of course not. You are desperately grasping at straws to support your taste for flesh.

As Krishna says in the Mahabharata, "No good man is entirely good. No bad man is entirely bad." The murderous gangster mob boss Al Capone ran soup kitchens for the poor during the Great Depression in Chicago. Does that make others who run soup kitchens evil? Or Al Capone a saint?

If you are using such a flimsy and specious "argument" to ridicule compassion and to justify cruelty, your position is weak indeed. And begs one to wonder what your real motivation is... just an excuse so that you can be a slave to your taste buds?

4. There's no way I'm only eating vegetables. Vegetarian food is SO boring.

Everything boils down to priorities. I see that you believe your entertainment is more important than compassion and concern for others. How sad it must be to be so shallow and hollow. But keep reading...

5. Vegetarian food just does not taste as good as meat!

It is pathetic that you are willing to sacrifice the suffering of others just to satisfy your taste. Yet, you do not have to give up your selfish sense enjoyment to enjoy good food. It is obvious that you have never tried good vegetarian cuisines! There is far, far more to vegetarianism than tasteless tofu, flavorless vegetables or bland salads.

There are many vegetarian meat-like alternatives commercially available at your local supermarket from such companies as Boca, Gardenburger, Loma Linda, Morningstar Farms and Worthington Foods that taste just as good as, or even better than, real meat. You can easily find vegetarian hamburgers, hotdogs, barbecue ribs, chicken, bologna, ham, salami, breakfast sausage and bacon, and so on. Plus, they are better for you than actual animal flesh: the benefits of soy in your diet as well as little or no saturated fat and little or no bad karma.

And if you want to try incredible vegetarian food that doesn't rely on a "fake meat" flavor and texture, check out foods from India, especially from Bengal. Most mainstream supermarkets stock foods from such brands as Amy's Kitchen, Sharwoods, Swad, or TastyBite. Just pop them into your microwave.

Even better, try an adventure by locating your nearest Indian restaurant.

Better still, if you are not close-minded, and/or if your budget is limited, check out your local Hare Krishna Temple by clicking here: you can enjoy an incredible free vegetarian feast any Sunday.

It never hurts to experiment with new foods. It may the best thing that you have ever tried. Everything that you currently enjoy, even your very favorite food, at one time, you had the courage to check out for the very first time. Why not try something new, again?
Care for Cows International
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