Published 5 November 2001
THE CASE for vegetarianism is not just about compassion and animal rights. It involves money, health, species physiology, the environment, population pressure on world food supply and Vedic wisdom. Britons opting for vegetarianism each week are almost outnumbering Indian converts to flesh diets.
This is ironic because in India's most revered book, Bhagavad gita, Sri Krishna Bhagavan asks for offerings of fruits, leaves, flowers and water but never flesh. Ahimsa, according to the Bhagawat Purana, was the sole purpose for Lord Buddha's appearance and is still a basic principle of Hinduism.
Killing animals and birds doesn't sit well with animal right activists. But even from an economic point of view, flesh diets don't work. Apart from being more expensive for the consumer, it takes between 7 and 15 pounds of grain to make one pound of meat.
Regarding human health, longevity and personal beauty, statistics side with the veggies. Further, human intestinal tracts and teeth are made to suit a vegetarian diet, whereas the viscera and incisors of the dog, tiger, lion and other carnivores are clearly fit for flesh diets. Sorry meat-eaters, but these are physiological facts.
And what about the environment? The amount of water required to raise one cow for slaughter is enough to float a battleship. The liquid manure from feedlots pollutes underground water systems and rivers. The packaging of meat, especially those used in fast-food chains, winds up as millions of tons of daily refuse.
But let's follow the money. The meat business, specifically the fast-food industry, is rapidly becoming the most popular and influential Western (read American) export to the world's less economically endowed. By clever marketing (read billions spent on promotion), the US's leading fast food chains have created a global fashion.
In his book, Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser says that McDonalds opens five new restaurants daily, and that a minimum of four of them is outside the US.
Now, one may wonder what does all this have to do with religion or meditation? A lot. Deep religious principles demand that animal species - especially cows - are to be cared for, stewarded, not dominated by humans, and not used for food, fun and fur. All living beings are, as the Gita informs us, mamaivamsho jiva-loke, jivabhutah sanatana (My God's eternal fragmental parts).
Being a vegetarian is not only a protest against economic exploitation and monetary inequities, it brings peace, happiness, and a closeness to God - assets which are greatly in demand in a frenzied world.