Ask Kytka Archives: September 13, 2002
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, once gave a lecture on the merits of vegetarianism to a small group of people. From the expression on their faces he could see that they had not understood the real essence of his words. At the end of the lecture he said he was going to have dinner at a particular restaurant and those who wished could join him. Most of them went along. At the restaurant Steiner ordered for himself a “schnitzel” (cutlet of meat.). The others were aghast and expressed their astonishment, just as he expected. He answered saying, “Schnitzel essen it besser als in Schnitzeln denken!” “Schnitzel” also means “a piece, scrap or fragment” and his answer meant “eating a piece of meat is better than thinking in pieces.”
This essay is not meant to praise vegetarianism or deride non-vegetarianism, but to look at these holistically, leaving the readers to draw their own conclusions and decide on what to eat.
This is not so simple as many think. Various conceptions exist as to what vegetarian food consists of.
A misconception in the west amongst some non-vegatarians is that vegetarianism means eating only raw salad vegetables! They do not know that innumerable delicious dishes can be cooked with vegetables only to suit every taste.
In the western world even about 40 years ago, eggs, fish and often poultry were considered to be “vegetarian”. In short, only the meat of mammals was excluded. The difference was “white meat” as against “red meat”. This conception is still valid in India amongst certain groups and in certain areas. The monks of the Ramakrishna Order, as well as most Buddhists in the world follow this principle, refrain from eating the “red” meat only.
The rarest interpretation is the exclusion of all animal products, including milk. Very few people live according to this, because most of them die early! To keep to this diet and still survive, one has to nourish oneself very carefully, frequently eat the only known complete substitute for meat: true soy beans. (There are pseudo soy beans, which are insufficient.)
The commonest form of vegetarianism is to exclude all animal products EXCEPT milk and milk products: lacto-vegetarianism.
2. Biological Factors.
In nature, every form of life is anatomically constructed to suit its nourishment. The anatomy reveals the feeding habits.
The human body is NOT designed to be purely vegetarian. A truly vegetarian mammal has certain essential or typical anatomical features: very large, multiple stomach, capable of breaking down cellulose; missing canine teeth; toes showing little separation, but forming hooves or semi-hooves; eyes set on the sides of the head rather than in the front.
The need for breaking down cellulose is obvious, for the cells in plants are generally covered by cellulose, which has to be removed to assimilate the contents of the cells. Canine teeth are unnecessary, for no tearing of flesh is done. Fingers and claws are not required, for nothing has to be caught or grabbed. The feet are suitable for walking on soft ground, and for carrying the weight of the big stomach and its contents. The eyes are on the sides to be alert for danger from both sides: nature plans that the herbivores are the food of the carnivores.
Herbivorous animals spend most of their time eating! Because it derives or synthesizes its protein from plants, which – with exceptions – contain little protein or ingredients thereof, they have to eat a lot. To process the large amount, the stomach is also large. The breaking down of cellulose and generating complex protein from simple forms requires separate chambers, successively used, each providing the right enzymes for each stage of conversion and digestion.
A purely carnivorous mammal has a small stomach, which cannot break down cellulose. It has large canine teeth, separated toes with claws. The eyes are in the front to provide stereoscopic vision, essential for gauging distance, locating and capturing the prey.
Most carnivorous animals eat only at large intervals, which can be as long as a week! Most of their bodily needs are supplied in concentrated form by the meat they eat, they need to eat less in bulk than the herbivores and require only small, single-chamber stomachs. The claws and teeth are needed to grab and tear the prey.
Man is an omnivorous animal. His stomach is small, single-chambered and incapable of dealing with cellulose. But his canine teeth are relatively small, his claws – if the nails are allowed to grow naturally – not very strong. His feet resemble those of carnivores, but the hands are much more developed. His food is a mixture, the need for meat is there, but low. Nature designed him to prey upon small animals and also eat vegetables, but not grass. But he has learned to capture, and later on to domesticate, larger animals for food by using his ingenuity.
His closest cousins, the humanoid apes, are predominantly vegetarian, but every now and then eat meat. Frequently this is a sort of cannibalism: they often eat monkeys! This is controlled by nature in a most subtle manner: the occurrence is fairly regular, but the victims get no warning, for the species as such is never threatened! This is similar to the situation of domesticated animals: their daily life is generally free of danger, but they suddenly get slaughtered without warning.
There are 22 kinds of proteins that the human body needs, 4 of which it cannot obtain from vegetables other than the true soy bean. The moong bean is a partial substitute for meat. The Indian Urud could be a full substitute, but I have no laboratory analysis for it. If the soy bean is not available, milk and cheese becomes essential.
What most people do not know: the average adult expends about 32,000 Joules of energy per day, but only about 7000 Joules are acquired from food! The remaining 25,000 Joules are absorbed from cosmic and geomantic energies, which explains why people who live in the open, like farmers, are more healthy than those who spend their lives in office buildings!
Most of what we eat is actually only water! The water content practically everything we actually eat varies from about 70% in nuts and dry cheese to 95% in cucumber or spinach.
A normal adult needs 3 to 4 ounces dry protein per day, of which 1 ounce should be meat or equivalent. This means about 5 ounces of meat in the raw state.
3. General Possibilities and Preferences and Consequences.
Being a pure vegetarian is not possible in many places on earth, for milk and soy beans are not available. Even in India some 40 years ago, except for the Indo-Gangetic plain, milk was very difficult to get. Urud beans were the only substitute, which, as I said, may not be sufficient. For some reason the true soy bean was unknown outside China till recently and production is far from being enough for the world to turn vegetarian. The reasons may be economical or agricultural.
In Africa and in the lands of the Eskimos, both milk and soy beans are generally absent. Of late milk is available in parts of Africa, mainly as imported powdered or condensed milk.
In Europe soy products are difficult to get, except in Asian shops.in the big cities. Algae products
are unknown. But milk is available in plenty. It is possible to be vegetarian at home, but hardly elsewhere. Pure vegetarian restaurants are rare. European vegetarian restaurants are usually open only during the day for lunch or snacks, but close during evenings. In larger cities one may find Indian restaurants, but the level of spicing may make the meal intolerable for the average westerner. If one is invited by non-vegetarian friends, asking for vegetarian food is a pain: they cannot provide a decent meal, know this and feel terribly embarrassed! The only way out is to say, “I´ll spend the time with you gladly, but allow me to bring my own food!” This certainly works, but rather kills the idea of “inviting” and hospitality.
A certain amount of flexibility helps. The non-vegetarian can often make a decent dish out of vegetables, if one lets him do it the way he knows. One should tolerate eggs, for instance. He may boil in meat broth or garnish with fried bacon. If one removes the bacon, and eats only the vegetables, one may enjoy the meal. But if one insists on total isolation from meat – including separate stirring spoons – one may end up getting raw cabbage, cauliflower etc. served on a nicely warmed plate! In a restaurant they my then bill you for twice as much as for genuine Beluga caviar!
The uncompromising rejection of animal products can mean that many otherwise vegetarian products are taboo: bread, buisuits, puddings, yoghurt etc. can contain lard or gelatine. Cheese becomes unacceptable if rennet was used in making it! Even white sugar can be a problem, for bone-ash is often used in the manufacture. Many jams and sweets contain cochineal, a colouring substance got from insects.
Many medicines – especially homoeopathic – are derived from animals, some of them involve infecting and killing!
The question of changing to lacto-vegetarianism is an individual problem. Actually it is far, far less difficult to stop eating meat than to start eating meat, if brought up as a vegetarian. A vegetarian meal can be as satisfying as a non-vegetarian, if cooked properly. In fact, if put together carefully, one may not even notice the absence of meat. The problem is often poor choice, lack of the right ingredients, and mostly bad and unimaginative cooking. Vegetables have to be treated with far more care than meat and a lot depends on spicing. Tropical vegetables are usually unsuited for raw consumption and need special cooking to get rid of their acridness and pungent smells. A badly cooked vegetarian meal can be torture!
Statistics have been presented in the past to prove that the raising of animals for food was a very uneconomical way of using the earth’s resources. It was claimed that more people could be fed by growing grain and vegetables on an acre of land than was possible if it was used for raising animals. This would apply to a certain extent if farming were to be done as in the past, but no longer today: unfortunately very little land is utilized for the actual raising of animals. But in most places the land which is suitable for animals is not quite suitable for agriculture, so that a conflict does not really arise. Converting grassland into fields is not always beneficial to the ecology. The meadows on mountains and highlands are best left as meadows!
If all human beings were to turn vegetarian:
– vast quantities of soy beans and algae products have to be produced and distributed.
– the present stock of domestic animals all over the world has to be destroyed somehow. These animals are domesticated and cannot live in free nature – in fact they are not even natural as species and belong nowhere except on farms. There is no habitat into which they could be released, without grave consequences to the ecology. Having lost their natural defence instincts and immunities, they will be wiped off if let loose in very wild areas. Meanwhile, however, there will be an enormous increase of the depredatory population, which, once the tame victims are eaten up, will start moving towards human settlements in the search for prey. But if let loose in less wild areas, the lack of “enemies” as controlling factor will lead to excessive increase in the numbers of the domesticated animals. Now these will start depredating forests, meadows, fields etc., and will have to be killed by Man to protect his sources of vegetarian food! Either a mass killing has to be done or the animals be systematically sterilized so that a new generation does not get born.
– a large number of people connected with the meat producing industry will become jobless, who will need to be supported and re-integrated.
All this needs systematic governmental planning, at international level.
4. General Health Considerations
The lacto-vegetarians in India are not a particularly “healthy” group. They tend to develop huge bellies. One reason could be that they actually eat very little vegetables, feed mainly on grains and pulses.
Grains are not a natural source of nourishment for Man. In fact grains are products of civilisation, developed from grass. The human body is not designed by nature to eat grass or grain.
An Indian doctor did much research on the subject and showed that many allergies common in India vanished when all grains were eliminated from the food! There is no evidence that vegetarian food is more healthy than a balanced non-vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet has also to be balanced to be healthy!
5. Effects on Character.
Vegetarianism is not synoymous with spirituality. Conversion to it could arise from spiritual motives, but vegetarian groups are no more spiritually advanced than non-vegetarian groups. Even if the basic reason for being a vegetarian is aversion to killing, it shows no high level of spirituality. Adolf Hitler was a classic example of this type. He even condemned hunting, for he could not bear the thought of killing animals for sport! But he showed no compassion for human beings!
On the other hand there have been countless noble souls in the world, who were almost strictly non-vegetarian. When I first visited Europe, England and Greece were the only countries where I could get a reasonable amount of vegetables. Except for bread and potatoes there was hardly anything vegetarian available in the other countries. Potatoes were introduced into Europe only 400 years ago. But there was no lack of saints beore that!
Meat by itself does not promote aggressiveness. The Eskimos are not an aggressive race, but live(d) practically entirely on meat. Nor does meat by itself induce sluggishness. It is overeating that causes it. Statistics wuld seem to show that people in advanced countries eat far more than they need or should.
6. Historic Considerations.
Whereas it is generally accepted that people all over the world were non-vegetarians, there is an opinion that the “vedic” population of ancient India was strictly vegetarian. This opinion is untenable for various reasons.
To be precise, the true vedic age, when the vedas were composed, is a prehistoric period: at least 6000 years ago, but in all likelihood many thousands of years earlier. It is not certain that Rama or Krishna lived during that period. There are – as far as I know – only two passing references to these heroes in the Rigveda, both of which hardly reflect the great fame of these Avatars in later times. Krishna is actually described as a demonic and undesirable person. So one can safely assume that the references were to persons other than these great heroes. After all, both names were not rare!
During that period the vedic people were essentially nomads and might not have lived in India at all! Although they raised grain, mainly barley, their mainstay was cattle, sheep, pigs, camels, horses, fish and perhaps poultry. The land they lived on was mountainous and the laying of fields difficult. The earlier hymns of the Rg veda were written when they lived where winter lasted for many months, which precluded agricultural activity during the major part of the year.
There are enough verses in the Rg veda to show that meat was not only eaten, but much valued as food. Bulls were certainly eaten, cows perhaps not, for their milk was needed, Incidentally, alcohol was consumed freely and being intoxicated was common.
The ages that followed, when the upanishads were compiled and the heroes lived, were successive post-vedic periods, during which the people settled down and evolved “civilisations”. The vedic culture was not restricted to the Indian subcontinent, but stretched out through Persia and Turkey into parts of Europe. That the vedic population in those regions ate meat is certain. In spite of the almost unquestioned traditional belief that the vedic culture originated in India and that the heroes like Rama, Krishna and the Pandavas etc. were natives of India, there is no evidence to prove this. There is, however, much evidence to suggest that the location of the epics was in Persia and neighbouring countries.
The bow was not invented as a weapon for warfare – though used as such later – but primarily for hunting. Carrying a weapon for self-defence and close combat is understandable: a dagger, sword or later on a pistol was often carried during the last centuries. A bow is useless in close combat. The Amerindians were the last remnants of ancient cultures and carried a bow as well as a dagger. The bow was essentially used for hunting.
The heroes in vedic epics were all archers and had their bows and arrows always at hand. They were hunters! The skill in archery that was expected of them was extremely high: necessary to hit a fleeing animal or flying bird, but hardly needed for attacking an approaching human enemy! Many of the episodes about kings begin with the king riding out to hunt, mostly deer. They certainly did not kill for fun! They were non-vegetarian and killed for food.
There are apparently scattered instances in old texts where the eating of meat is condemned. A web article cites some of these, with insufficient reference. Actually the instances quoted do not refer to the eating of meat, but to injuring – whether animals are implied is uncertain. In one instance King Parikshit is cited as having spoken against meat eating. But this seems odd, for it was on a hunting expedition that he earned his curse! Such instances were probably later insertions, owing to Buddhistic influence, to make the eating of meat unpopular.
Another instance quoted, without any contextual reference: Bhishma is supposed to have explained to Yudhishthira that the flesh of animals was like the flesh of one´s own son. The point is uncertain:
– if Yudhistira had been a vegetarian, the instruction would have been superflous. A person who has grown up to adulthood as a vegetarian is most unlikely to start eating meat. That needs a tremendous amount of will power and such a change-over can happen only under strong compulsion of necessity. Bhishma´s teaching would make sense If Yudhistira had been a child, who was in danger of being seduced into eating meat by others. But that would mean that the child grew up in a non-vegetarian mileu!
– If vegetarianism had been common practice the instruction would have been hardly necessary, unless Yudhistira was an exception and was a non-vegetarian. But it is very unlikely that he would have been raised in a custom that was generally diaspproved.
So it seems obvious that Yudhistira was a non-vegetarian and conformed to common practice. Only thus can we justify the teaching. If Bhishma was a vegetarian, he must have been an exception.
It is clear from old texts that animals were sacrificed and their meat eaten. This is often flatly denied, or the explanation offered that these were exceptional occasions. This is done usually by life-long vegetarians, who believe that meat eating is something like starting to smoke or drink alcohol – that it is relatively easy. IT IS NOT! Unless one is given meat to eat as a child and that often, it is impossible to accept the smell of meat, take a piece of meat into the mouth and chew it without vomitting. If one succeeds so far, swallowing the chewed mass is almost unsurmountable without a great and deliberate effort, for it remains as a lump in the mouth and does not “melt” off as vegetables do.
This I say from personal experience. As a South Indian Brahmin I had been a pure lacto-vegetarian, TAUGHT TO ABHOR MEAT. I was often sent to the market to buy vegetables, because I was rather good at picking up the best quality. This was a sort of honour, but also a torture, because I could not avoid going past the butchers´stalls! Sometimes I would have to vomit when I got home, remembering the carcasses I had seen and smelt. I was forced to learn to eat meat when I was 18, out of a certain necessity. I went to sea and there was practically no vegetarian food on board ships in those days except potatoes or noodles! Even the potatoes were often fried in lard! It took me over a year of daily practice with a tiny piece of meat before I could gulp it down – and keep it in! All my vegetarian colleagues – Brahmins and Jains, had the same experience. It took us all 12 to 18 monhs to be able to eat meat as normal part of a meal. None of us who learned to eat meat has ever developed any craving for meat and always prefer a good vegetarian meal!
Psychological barriers regarding food are very very strong. A Moslem colleague and I went out to eat in France. He was a very open-minded, non-fanatical person. He ordered chicken. He enjoyed the French cooking thoroughly and wanted to know what those very tasty little cubes in the sauce were. The waiter said, “Ham”. My friend went green, ran out and threw up his meal! Later he said, “It was so tasty, but when I knew it was pork my upbringing brought up uncontrollable nausea!”
In vedic times animals were sacrificed to “feed” the Gods and departed ancestors, to please them with their favourite food. How would a vegetarian assume that Gods and especially his own dead ancestors would relish what he himself abhorred? Would it not be a tremendous insult to offer higher souls what one considers unfit for oneself? Would not the intention be to offer what one valued and appreciated most?
Vegetarianism seems to have started through the preachings of Mahavira, the Jina, founder of Jainism. The date of Mahavira is officially taken to be around 700 BC, but was most likely 1900 BC. Gauthama Buddha (600 BC or 1800 BC) also preached ahimsa, apparently condemned the mass slaughter of animals at the royal courts. Jina really meant that animal life should not be destroyed, swept the ground before him so as not to tread on insects, avoided eating roots, for pulling them out would possibly kill animals in the earth. Buddha was by no means so strict. According to legend his last meal, which proved fatal, consisted of pork, unfortunately spoilt! His principle and injunction to his disciples was to go begging, but to eat whatever was given, without any reservations as to kind or quality.
The vegetarian movement gathered momentum and large sections of people, especially the Brahmins, became vegetarians. But at no time did the majority give up the habit of eating meat. Especially the Kshathriyas never changed, whereas many Vaisyas did.
Today the majority of Indians eat vegetarian food most of the time, for meat is expensive and reserved for special occasions.
Showing kindness to animals is not a human trait. This notion is mainly a western development and recent at that. Kindness was shown only towards domesticated animals to some extent, mostly horses, dogs and cats, all three generally useful one way or other. Cattle, sheep and pigs were looked after for their value, but not really treated with kindness as such: beating them etc. was not uncommon.
Measured by modern western standards, Indians are callous towards animals. Certain animals like cows, monkeys at certain places, or snakes at others, enjoy immunity for religious reasons. But beating animals with sticks, throwing stones at them, kicking or trampling them even for fun is no rarity! Vegetarian Indians are vegetarians not out of any thought for the suffering of the animals, but through upbringing and that for religious reasons. They think eating meat is a sin because they were told so, not because they think so.
7. Ethical and Natural Considerations.
The question of whether it is wrong to kill an animal has to be seen from various angles. In free nature practically every animal except perhaps the elephant is killed and devoured. Natural death is an individual exception, but even that occurs only through an accident or starvation. All animals, some even during the process of being born, others when weak, become prey. Elephants are not usually attacked, but when they get too weak to keep up with the herd, they are put to death by the leader of the herd, as an act of mercy. The bodies are usually covered by twigs etc. – a solemn “burial” ceremony – but hyenas and vultures get to the meat soon.
So killing an animal to eat it is a natural thing. Is it a sin for Man to do so?
Animals kill only to eat or in self defense. Man goes further: he kills for fun, or for further utilisation, to make things out of the animal for various utilitarian purposes. He kills to make room for his fields. If there is sin in killing, it is in this kind of killing.
How many strict vegetarians wear shoes or gloves or coats or watch-straps, or have cases or furniture made of genuine leather, but object to killing for food? Is killing for comfort or vanity better than killing for food? Even the guru who preaches ahimsa sits all too often on a deerskin or the skin of a tiger. Do these people think that one finds newly and “naturally” dead animals by the thousands, lying around just waiting to be gathered and skinned?
If one truly practices vegetarianism for the sake of ahimsa, he should avoid ALL animal products! Even stop stringing his violin with catgut! Even send his cat out to catch its mice, instead of feeding it meat out of tins.
There is another aspect, which rarely receives attention. Sir Jagdish Bose showed by various experiments that plants feel pain. If they had mouths they would say “ouch” or even shriek with pain when they are hurt. Backster, the inventor of the lie-detector showed that plants have emotions, memory and psychic abiity. Kirlian showed by his special photography that plants and even the individual leaves have astral bodies! They also react to words, music etc. They have no visible means of communication – the mimosa is a exception – but use scents, which we can hardly smell. But properly designed electrical instruments connected to plants show accompanying reactions. Actually plants do react physically to pain but this “contraction” is hardly visible to the naked eye. Instruments however reproduce graphs of physical reaction which are exactly similar to those shown by animal muscles when hurt. …. Bose actually demonstrated that metals and minerals also react similarly, indicating that all matter has consciousness, each form having that kind and amount as it requires to exist.
Bose delivered a lecture at the royal Academy in London in 1920. It was the lecture of a scientist preaching the principles of the advaitic philosophy and he said that one day scientists would be able to prove that divine energy and consciousness are all-pervading. Eighty years later, scientists are talking of the consciousness of sub-atomic particles and their apparent capcity to communicate with one another!
Backster showed in the late sixties that plants show “joy” or “dismay” when approached by persons, depending on the mental intention of the person. If one approached to water, tend or admire the plant, it showed joy. But if the intention was to pluck a leaf or flower, the opposite of “joy” was shown. Since only a deflecting needle was used to record the emotions, one could not differentiate between “fear”, “anger” etc., and only the intensity could be gauged.
This was not restricted to matters concerning the plant only. A cook, thinking of boiling living shrimps, caused the plants he approached to show dismay. Later on, at the moment when the shrimps were actually thrown into boiling water in the kitchen, the plants reacted violently!
In a very telling experiment, plants that had been in a room where a murder had been committed helped to find the murderer. Suspects and unconnected persons were made to approach these and other plants. Only one person caused significant reactions: violent in the plants that had “witnessed” the murder, strong in the case of the other plants. Both sets of plants had detected “evil”, but the first group had apparently also vividly “remembered” the deed! (This could not be used as evidence in court, but helped the police to find suitable evidence.)
The photographic method invented by Kirlian and his wife to capture the “astral body” on film revealed that plants and leaves also have such bodies. The amazing part was this: if a portion of a leaf was cut off and the remaining part photographed, the Kirlian picture showed the full leaf and not just the fragment!
Now we generally assume that plants do not feel pain or that they do so in a “limited way”. This is false thinking. Pain is not dependent on size or species. If one pulls off the leg or wing of a fly, is its pain less in intensity than that felt by a human being whose leg or arm is wrenched off? Is the pain of a plant less if one plucks a leaf, flower or fruit only because we do not hear it crying out in pain?
Nature itself gives an answer. Before a plant voluntarily sheds a leaf or fruit it gradually builds up a separating horny layer across the stalk, which painlessly, isolates it and the slightest wind causes the leaf or fruit to drop off without the plant suffering.
Plucking a leaf, flower or fruit is equal to tearing off a finger or the ovary/uterus of the plant with violence.
But there is a difference. The leg or uterus of an animal does not have an independent life and cannot live on without the main or parent body. The only exception is perhaps in the case of certain lizards etc., which shed their tails when pursued too closely. The tail twitches and jumps around for a while, distracting the pursuer, giving the lizard a chance to hide itself.
As such, the pain of “amputation” is probably felt only by the main body. Whether the amputated limb feels any pain is uncertain.
An animal feels pain when killed, for a longer or shorter period, depending on the method of killing. Most methods are less traumatic than the execution of humans in say the US. The death of the animal is usually instantaneous. The individual cells “die” after a few hours, through lack of oxygen etc. Whether this causes pain to the cells or whether they “faint” cannot be said! After that there is no pain factor, whatever is done to the meat, except perhaps for the bacteria present in the meat.
In the case of plants the flowers are ovaries, out of which the uterus – the fruit – develops. The stalk of the fruit is its placenta, and in addition, if the fruit is a pod with many seeds in it, each seed has its own stalk or placenta inside the pod. The fruit or pod has ashort independent life after it is naturally shed by the plant. If plucked earlier, this independent life is prolonged: left alone, they continue to breathe, assimilate from the stored nourishment in the stalk, grow and ripen.
If you pluck pea-pods you pull off one uterus after the other, causing pain to the plant each time. Now the pod continues to live! So each pod also feels the pain of violent separation from the parent body. So that makes it 2 shots of pain for every pod you pluck. Now you open the pod, causing pain – 3 shots!. Then you rip off each pea, and cause pain to both pod and pea. If you have 10 peas there, there is an addition of 20 shots of pain. So you cause pain 23 times for each 10 peas you gather. But it does not stop there: the pea is the actual child and is still alive, with all its cells. Whether you eat it raw or cook it, you cause it again. So that makes it 33 shots of pain for 10 peas! If you eat 100 peas as one portion, you have caused pain 330 times.
In the case of other vegetables, act of peeling and cutting hurts them, with every touch of the knife! Eating a peeled carrot may involve 20 hurts or more!
By waiting for the vegetables or fruits to ripen and fall off by themselves you will hurt less, but even then you must wait till the casing ripens and “dies” before you eat them, if you want to keep violence to a minimum.. But if you eat that stuff you may get sick and will not be nourished! Nor is it really possible to gather and distribute the vegetables or fruits at that stage.
In other words, eating involves causing pain. Whom you hurt is all you can decide on! If you eat meat, one animal suffers pain once and a number of people eat the meat. But each person who eats 100 peas causes pain 330 times. Considering the processes of reaping and threshing etc. the total pain caused while eating a handful of grain can be worse! The unfertilized egg is perhaps the only form of food that suffers least! In the future, tissue culture in retorts could provide animal protein. But this may not be possible with vegetables.
The philosophical approach would say: everything is Brahman, whether it is an animal or a vegetable. So is every individual. The cylic law of nature compels one form to eat another. This is what Jesus meant when he said about the bread, “This is my body, which you eat!” Whatever we eat, we eat Brahman and have to be thankful to Him for manifesting himself as our food.
One can be a vegetarian for various reasons, sentiment, taste or whatsoever, but to claim that one thereby practices ahimsa is untenable, and there is no justification for feeling superior to non-vegetarians! It is far more important to realize that plants are also living beings and that we hurt them when we eat plant products. We don´t realize this because plants cannot utter sounds and do not move. Even the act of plucking flowers for a vase, for presenting etc. is a form of callousness and cruelty to the plant.
We assume that only we think or know about death. This is wrong. Animals and plants know about death and expect it! It is the fate of animals and plants also to be brutally hurt and eaten by others, whn the time comes. Animals being taken to be slaughtered have a premonition of impending death, show signs of great agitation and fear. But plants suffer the same way when the gardner approaches them to gather vegetables.
Vegetarians often accuse non-vegetarians of being callous and cruel. As a rule, however, most non-vegetarians would refuse to slaughter and eat meat only when sold by the butcher. A visit to a slaughterhouse usually makes them go off meat for a period, till the memory fades. But people eat vegetables without any compunction because they do not see the suffering or hear the protest of the victim. Would anyone eat 10 peas if he or she heard 33 yells of pain?
Eating involves hurting! A sensible eater eats just enough for his needs. Gluttony is the true sin – causing unnecessary pain by consuming more than is really needed. Oddly enough, vegetarians tend to eat more than necessary, for they do not plan their complete protein intake and try to substitute with carbohydrates!
The real sin connected with eating meat is the modern way the animals are bred and housed, with no freedom or chance to experience life. They are raised in tiny boxes to prevent movement and accelerate growth, fed with things that rob them of their health They have no chance at all to live their lives before death overtakes them, their short sojourn on earth is devoid of all happiness. It was different when the animals were free to roam on the meadows and the farms provided shelter. Now they are born, bred and killed in cruel prisons!
But vegetables are also being maltreated. Artificial lighting etc. are used to simulate day and night changes, genes are being altered, terrible fertilizers are being introduced. We cannot imagine how much they suffer, but they do suffer.
We often pay homage to Jagannaatha, the Lord of the Universe, because He is the almighty ruler and we are used to bowing down before might. But we forget that He is Janaardhana, the nourisher of all life. (The word “jana” is not restricted to people, but includes everything that has been created.) As Janaardhana, the Creator sacrifces himself perpetually to feed us, no matter what we eat, be it beef or beans. Our homage should be to appreciate this sacrifice,
The Amerindian who kills an animal thanks its soul for having given him its body for food. He also thanks the corn plants and the corn after the harvest. And he thanks God for having given him these. We must emulate. What we eat is not important, but how we eat. It is important to eat as little as possible and to show gratitude to the animal or the apple tree, the apple itself and the seeds in it – and to God. All of these sacrifice themselves to keep us alive.
The Paleo Diet, click here
Reconstructing the Paleolithic Diet, click here
**Very Special Thanks to Mani for this wonderful look at food considerations and permissions to reproduce exclusively at this site.